Puanga-Matariki 2024 – Whakakahangia te Wairua

“Whakakahangia Te Wairua” was just the right theme to focus on resilience and to celebrate Puanga-Matariki 2024 at the Hihiaua Cultural Centre from the rising of Puanga early in June.

What a month it has been since the opening of the exhibition of artworks honouring community resilience, strength, and vibrancy and reflecting the enduring spirit and strength needed in today’s changing world.
Like the rising of Puanga and Matariki, the major highlight of the season took place before dawn on Saturday June 15 when a16 metre waka taua silently left Hihiaua for its new home with Ngati Whatua ki Orakei. Tohunga tarai waka Heemi Eruera towed the magnificent waka out of the waka shelter where it had been carved over the previous few months. The project began with a gigantic 40,000 year old swamp kauri log dropped off a truck last summer. Since then Heemi and the carvers of
Hihiaua have created a beautiful masterpiece to be paddled on the Waitemata after being launched from Okahu Bay on 23rd June 23.

Scores of the community enjoyed wānanga, workshops and glimpses of the processes behind making toi Maori. Thanks to generous support of both Te Puni Kokiri and the Whangarei District
Council we were able to deliver all these events. Many other organisations also chose the Hiihiaua Cultural Centre as the venue for their Puanga-Matariki events again this year.
Those lost over the past year have been honoured and remembered, gratitude for
the bounties we share has been expressed and plans for the future have been made – which is exactly as it should be.

Many of our local kaitoi travelled to Hawai’i for Festpac – the Festival of Pacific Arts – to experience the weaving of the Pacific nations together as one whanau – through the arts. Their social media posts have kept us closely linked to all the joy of reunion, the vibrancy and colour through waka arrivals, haka and hula from the beaches, parks, shopping malls and halls of Oahu. We eagerly await for their stories
to be shared over the coming weeks.
Puanga – Matariki is now firmly embedded in our culture and calendars. Once again, our tamariki know what it is and what it means. As our babies learn to talk, they can recite the names of the stars and what they signify. They can look to the sky and point to their place.
Our schools are often leading the way. One example is Whangarei Intermediate who invited whanau to share in performances by kapa haka, dance and music groups. Huge amounts of talent and hard work by tutors and the tamariki themselves go into creating the magic that is music and such confidence. What begins in such humble ways here in our neighbourhoods can lead us to the World and to change the world. No better example than famous singer-songwriter Troy Kingi who set the night alight with his surprise performance. No fanfare, no tickets, just a natural response to a request from his sister and Mum who are both in leadership roles at the school. Only in Tai Tokerau, eh.
Manawatia a Matariki! Whakakahangia te Wairua!

Photo credit: Lisa Dawson