Matariki illuminates the Sir Owen G Glenn Building in special celebration

Mānawatia a Matariki event lights up the Business School atrium for the first time.

Matariki illumination of the Owen G Glenn building atrium
Matariki illumination of the Owen G Glenn building atrium

The distinctive sound of the Pūtatara (shell trumpet) and karanga, followed by a karakia and mihi whakatau, welcomed the University of Auckland community as they gathered to celebrate Matariki at a special event on Monday 27 June.

In honour of the occasion, the Matariki constellation illuminated the atrium of the Sir Owen G Glenn Building for the very first time. Projections of the star cluster radiated throughout the foyer and the atrium, providing a striking backdrop to the evening’s kōrero about the significance of Matariki. A stunning portrait of Matakerepo, the blind Māori goddess of vision, added her mana to the evening’s programme.

The Mānawatia a Matariki event was brought to life by a team from the Dame Mira Szászy Centre including Associate Dean Māori and Pacific, Dr Rachel Maunganui Wolfgramm, Dr Billie Lythberg and Ngāroimata Reid , with the full support of Dean Ahorangi Susan Watson and Deputy Dean Ahorangi Carla Houkamau, Himendra Ratnayake, and the events team comprised of Lizzie Morris, Leo Liao, Rachel Swasbrook and Ricky Te Akau.

Dr Rachel Maunganui Wolfgramm
Dr Rachel Maunganui Wolfgramm

Tohunga Whakairo (master carver) Wikuki Kingi Jnr’s presence also made the event special. Wikuki had recently returned from blessing the pouihi carved by his grandfather, Īnia Te Wīata, in New Zealand House in London.

Wikuki, also Kaiārahi for Creative Arts and Industries , performed a special mihimihi and shared words in remembrance of those who have passed on, honouring their enduring taonga. Those honoured in this way included Ngāti Whātua kaumātua Takutai ‘Doc’ Wikiriwhi, esteemed leader Joseph Parata Hohepa Hawke MNZM, Dr Moana Jackson, Dr Merimeri Penfold, Dr Mānuka Hēnare and many more Māori leaders.

We’re happy to share this kind of Māori history – it’s really the essence of who we are as a Kiwi nation.

Wikuki Kingi Jnr

Billie and Wikuki then presented a beautifully curated photo gallery of the Business School taonga, explaining how they embody each department’s aspirations, where they are displayed and their special meaning: “We manifest these understandings in our artworks and our taonga, and they become the treasures we pass on to the next generation, so the stories evolve,” said Wikuki, who sourced materials, carved, and sculpted many of the taonga.

Billie Lythberg and Wikuki Kingi Jnr at Matariki event in the Business School
Billie Lythberg and Wikuki Kingi Jnr

From the pounamu taonga, Te Toka Kamaka o Waiparuru, that greets visitors in the atrium foyer; all the way up to the tīheru, or bailer, dedicated to the Economics Department on Level 6, they explained how each taonga was crafted to reflect the special purpose guiding each department and the wider school.

As well as the stories behind these taonga, the event forged a deeper understanding of the mātauranga Māori associated with Matariki. Rachel acknowledged the different iwi (tribal) knowledge systems of Matariki and explained the whakataukī Matariki Ahunga Nui, drawing on her own iwi and whānau affiliations to Te Whakatōhea and Te Whānau o Rangihaerepo. She spoke about each visible star within the cluster and how they all have a divine purpose and relationship to our own endeavours.

Storytelling followed with Tania Haerekitera sharing the tale of how Maui slowed down Te Rā (the sun) to allow more time for light and life to flourish on Earth – and how Matariki (the mother star within the cluster) healed Te Rā of his wounds from his battle with Maui. Tania explained that this story illuminates how these elements of power and resilience, symbolised by the sun, warrior and innovator (represented by Maui) and healer (represented by Matariki), are in fact a reflection of our own selves.

Tania, representing Pou Kapua Creations, then gifted a special painting of a waka wairua illuminated on the waters of Pangaru Harbour to He Manga Tauhokohoko Business School. The event culminated with the sharing of kai and kōrero.

For the speakers involved in the programme, the event marked a special milestone for the University.

Wikuki said it was “extraordinary” to have Matariki celebrated in this way. “We’re happy to share this kind of Māori history – it’s really the essence of who we are as a Kiwi nation,” he said.

“With te reo, the mainstream has accepted it and it’s really become part of everyday life. When that happens, everybody wants to be part of the story ... and that’s good, because then the story becomes our collective story.”

For Billie, “Matariki is the perfect time to gather together and share stories”.

“The Business School is quite the whare taonga, with artworks and taonga to anchor and inspire us, and people who carry their kōrero. It was thrilling to tell some of these stories and have people identify their departmental taonga for the first time and embrace their significance.”

Ngāroimata felt that there was something for everyone in the evening, whilst Carla expressed aroha and gratitude at being able to share time to celebrate Matariki with her whānau, friends and colleagues. Rachel said the evening was especially important to ensure the taha wairua of all was nourished, that this was the beginning of something new for the school, and that we must continue to celebrate together when Matariki returns.