Renei Ngawati: Matariki Reflections

Hauhake tū, ka tō Matariki 
The harvest ends when Matariki sets

The Matariki constellation has moved under the horizon, signalling the end of harvest as winter sets in. A time to come together, to reflect, to wānanga, to learn and most of all, to be grateful. And it seems coincidental that the practices leading up to Matariki and the responses to Covid-19 have been hand in hand.

This year, we had the opportunity to put the things that are important to us to the forefront of our thinking and living. The Covid-19 response forced us to spend time together, to come together as a community and as a nation. We have much to be grateful for during a devastating worldwide situation. 

Matariki symbolises the practice of manaaki and aroha, this should be a time to be grateful for the fruits of the labour put into the year, where we can celebrate the wealth of the harvest,  to gather and collectively remember those who have passed on.  

Matariki hunga nui 
Matariki of many people 

Traditionally, the harvest of kai before winter ensured manaaki was practiced by celebrating and distributing kai amongst the people. The gratitude of what has been shared out and received was part of that process. This is the distribution of wealth. Economic hauora.  

The Covid-19 response disrupted the current food and wealth distribution system. The Government and public response showed we can distribute the wealth of our nation to feed the people. It allowed a platform for communities to kick-start their sovereignty and autonomy over their hauora. We are grateful for the immediate and overwhelming response for whānau to ensure they had access to the basics and the ability for the Government to respond on a massive financial scale so whānau had food. 

It shows us that when resources are distributed and whānau have the ability to look after their communities, that means the determinants of good whānau outcomes start to look better. This leads to the ability to practice manaaki between each other, and allows the emotional ability to practice gratitude for what they give and receive. An important practice at the time of Matariki. This is whānau security. 

Te ope o te rua Matariki
The company from the cavern Matariki 

Traditionally, Matariki has a strong connection with the dead. The proverb above references those who have departed the world of the living and have gathered in the cavern of Matariki. 

This year is the perfect time for Aotearoa to observe Matairki if it hadn’t already been a part of whānau life, especially to remember those who have passed away.  

Twenty-two lives were lost during the peak of our Covid response. They were all parents, grandparents whose knowledge of their time is lost to us now. All treasured, all loved. Our thoughts are with those who lost many whānau members through different situations.  

Small communities shut themselves off to protect their kuia and kaumatua. Whānau were isolated from one another and unable to mourn those who have passed on. The discussions on social media and the news about Covid-19 tangi guidelines were welcomed and distressing at the same time. Whānau all around the motu expressed their despair and their thanks for the time taken to think about how we can mourn those lost. Tikanga adapted to include, on a grand scale it seemed, online tangi watching from afar. Mourners showed up at urupā, standing outside the gates to show their respects, keeping their distance. 

Te hautapu o Matariki
The offering to Matariki 

The predawn appearance of Matariki is predicted to take place on July 13th 2020, which will herald the new year, according to Māori. 

I encourage the Government to show Aotearoa how to mark and acknowledge Matariki in this Covid-19 context by remembering those who have passed. To call their names and honor them when Matariki rises. 

Given that each star within the Matariki cluster has an association with water, weather, food, aspirations and more, there’ll be insights that could prove beneficial for Aotearoa as it plans for a better post Covid-19 reality. I encourage the Government to utilise Matariki as a means to lead us into the times ahead. 

There’s a fun side to marking Matariki too. Māori traditionally would send their dreams and desires for the year to the star named Hiwa. Similar to wishing upon a star, there’s scope for wider Aotearoa to make a Matariki new year resolution. 

The Government has done a wonderful job to try to respect and treat everyone with kindness, open communication and ensure that the blows of Covid-19 are not as harsh as they could have been. This is the time to remember why we are here, and what journey we are on to ensure all of us are safe and no more lives are at risk. To build security for all. 

We have shown ourselves we can disrupt the system, we can share economic wealth, celebrate, mourn and still feed the people. So reflect, dream, plant new seeds, hug your babies, celebrate those gone, and those who have just arrived. 

Tērā Matariki ka rewa i te pae, e tohu ana i te mātahi o te tau. 
There rises Matariki, on the horizon, heralding in the new year.