Matariki New Year

17 Jun 2008

With celebrations and feasts happening across the nation in name of Matariki, the Māori New Year, Slow Food Marlborough will join the festivities tomorrow with a tour of local fisheries, a mussel tasting and a presentation on the role of Matariki in traditional agriculture.

Matariki is the Māori name for a small cluster of stars in the Taurus constellation which come into view in New Zealand in the last days of May or early June. Appearing low on the north-eastern horizon, in the tail of the Milky Way, this moment heralds the Māori New Year.

Traditionally, the coming season’s crop is thought to be determined by the visibility of Matariki: the brighter the stars, the warmer the season would be, the earlier the planting and the more productive the crop.

In addition to defining the seasonal cycles, Matariki refers to the collecting and storing of food for the winter period—Matariki ahunga nui (Matariki provider of plentiful food)—as it fell at the end of harvest when meat, fruits, herbs and vegetables had been gathered and preserved and the migration of certain fish ensured a great period of feasts.

Today, the Te Waka Kai Ora body certifies traditional organic Māori farming methods, following the Maramatak calendar and observing Matariki and the phases of the moon, the stars, bird activity and the flowering period of the plants.

‘Maori believe we are the Kaitiaki (guardians) of the land and all natural resources, protecting and nurturing it to ensure its sustainability. I believe there is a place for Maori science and knowledge and other indigenous wisdoms,’ says Percy Tipene, Chair of Te Waka Kai Ora and Coordinator of the Maori Vegetable Growers food community.

The national Te Papa museum is bringing this celebration to the public’s attention with a month-long Matariki Festival. The Hangi Cuisine Cookoff, held last Saturday, saw culinary representatives from Maori communities around New Zealand add their own style to this iconic Māori feast of meats and root vegetables cooked underground on hot rocks. The event was complimented by talks, demonstrations and tastings of traditional kai (food), including muttonbirding (the seasonal harvesting of the chicks of petrels for food, oil and feathers) and eeling.

Sources:
Marlborough Express

Te Waka Kai Ora

Maori Vegetable Growers food community

Bess Mucke
[email protected]

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