TEU member Tahangāwari Tangitu-Huata (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Kahungunu) is the Senior Māori Liaison Adviser of Māori recruitment at Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato | University of Waikato. Here, Taha reflects on Matariki and the its significance in contemporary Aotearoa and our sector.

Matariki is more than just a celebration. Matariki is the symbolic representation of a series of scientific elements, philosophical practices and spiritual enlightenments. Matariki helps guide us through the metaphysical in the form of karakia, waiata and traditions like unearthing hāngī as a form of giving various offerings to the Atua Māori. Today, Matariki is a combination of these philosophical teachings merged with the revitalisation of our own esoteric knowledge systems as tangata whenua.

During Matariki we celebrate this time of transition and its many symbolisms. It's a culmination of philosophies and traditions coinciding together whilst its sanctity is being restored. Misunderstandings are being corrected and records being set straight, all this guided by Aotearoa’s very own Māori leaders and Māori academics. These experts are helping Aotearoa create a better understanding and relationship with Matariki and the importance of the Māori world view.

We should all use this time of Matariki to reflect on the past and prepare for the future, both the foreseeable and unknown. It is a time to acknowledge those who have passed, to celebrate our past, to reflect upon some of our hardships and adversities, and conceptualise a new approach to the new year moving forward.

Matariki is also about balance; balancing the physical, spiritual, environmental and emotional. For those of us that work in the tertiary sector, Matariki is also a good way to reinforce our bicultural responsibilities and practices as a nation. Reaffirming our historic cultural heritage as a country, how it is relevant to our place at work and the way we live as New Zealanders in Aotearoa.

Today, we are seeing a resurgence of Matariki’s true meaning. There is a lot of new learning, innovation and creativity, owing to the revitalisation of Matariki and traditional knowledge. Contemporary, creative elements reaffirm the traditional, and bring new life to Matariki.

It’s crucial today that through the revitalisation of Matariki, we see the passing on of this knowledge and tradition to our rangatahi. Even as we embrace the contemporary, we must ensure we continue to protect the sanctity of these philosophical practices of Māori through understanding the history of core Matariki concepts to ensure we celebrate in a way that is empowering and relevant to purpose. Although the celebration of Christmas has changed for communities over time, it’s not a time for Easter eggs. Much in the same way, we can’t have Matariki without the true, fundamental pillars of what it means.

Along with the sentiments about Matariki we are seeing great resources and opportunities to learn the stories of Matariki, practical ways to implement the maramataka to help us be in alignment with the lunar and stellar calendar. Te reo Māori itself is also crucial to our understanding of Matariki. The vernacular embodies our traditions, philosophies, and the principles that articulate the fundamental ideas of Māori society, and New Zealand society generally.

Our traditional understanding of Matariki is increasingly researched, and continually revitalised through our knowledge experts such as Professor Rangi Matamua of Waikato University. Through new and traditional understandings of Matariki and of maramataka, we can find new ways to apply this knowledge to our modern lives, in guiding decision-making and promoting well-being.

This Matariki I will be working with tauira Māori, identifying pathways for their continued learning, but also helping them transition into University and preparing and empowering them for the next journey of their life as they finish high school this year. This for me is a way of embodying the values of Matariki in my workplace.

On a personal level, I’ll be spending Matariki with whānau, putting down a hāngī in Horohoro, eating kai with whānau for nourishment and for connection back to the world of noa.