Celebrating Matariki and the success of Tuākana
28 September 2022
Matariki is an important time for us to orient ourselves on the first time it was celebrated as a public holiday in Aotearoa New Zealand.
This year marked the first Matariki celebrated as a public holiday in Aotearoa New Zealand. It can’t be overstated how important this is for so many people, not only because it is bringing the traditions of Matariki to many new people, but also because it highlights an important part of Māori culture in Aotearoa.
To celebrate Matariki and the opportunity it provides us for reflection, a Kai and Kōrero was held for the Faculty of Science on Tuesday 5 July. It was also a chance for many of the Tuākana coordinators from each school and department to safely meet face to face for the first time in months, or even Celebrating Matariki and the success of Tuākana Matariki is an important time for us to orient ourselves on our journeys, and this year was the first time it was celebrated as a public holiday in Aotearoa New Zealand. longer, given the pandemic.
During these difficult times the fostering of community is more important than ever, and even though technology allows us to stay connected when we are scattered, there will never be a better way of bringing people together than sharing a meal.
Of course, this occasion was about more than kai (though we were glad to have it!), it was also about manaakitanga. This is a word often translated as ‘hospitality’, but there is a deeper meaning behind it. Manaakitanga can be understood by breaking down each part; ‘mana’ is well known to many as a word that reflects the power or presence, of a person, place, or object. ‘Aki’ means to encourage, so manaakitanga can be thought of as coming together in a way that encourages reciprocal growth.
We are all here to help grow the mana of each other. We invite others into our homes to share with us, and they in turn respect us and our homes, and this balance of respect and care in a relationship between individuals or groups is manaakitanga. Matariki is the perfect time for all of us to think about our relationships and reaffirm the respect we have for each other, especially for those coordinating Tuākana, since each school and department can be so busy that there is not often time to meet.
Whakapapa of Tuākana
Among the guests in attendance were the Dean of Science, Professor John Hosking, and Kaiarataki Michael Steedman, who was the original programme coordinator for Tuākana when it first began to take shape, and who went on to become the first Kaiārahi in the University of Auckland.
To open the hui John emphasised the faculty’s commitment to Tuākana and thanked everyone involved for their mahi. Michael then shared with us the whakapapa of Tuākana, speaking on its creation back in the late nineties by Professor Michael Walker, who saw a need for a programme that gave students more space to grow. Whakapapa is about both tracing the lineage of the past and understanding where you come from, and also orienting yourself in the present and understanding who you are now. For instance, not everyone in attendance knew that the Tuākana programme actually started in the Faculty of Science, before it was adopted throughout the whole University. A great example of how understanding where you come from informs your understanding of who you are now.
To that end, Michael spoke on many aspects of Tuākana, including the visual designs used, explaining that they embody excellence – an idea at the core of Tuākana. The fantastic students in Tuākana already have the skills and knowledge to contribute incredible advancements to their field of study, and the programme gives them space to explore the potential they already have.
Representatives of the Nesian Indigenous Science Student Association (NISSA) also attended the Matariki hui, as the first Pacific and Indigenous Science association at the University. NISSA’s executive team contains student representatives from each Tuākana department within the faculty; NISSA would not exist as it does today without the Tuākana Programme. Co-presidents Mena Vaimasenuu Welford, Indigo Michael, and Milly Grant- Mackie said of the hui: “Matariki for us is a time to remember and honour those staff and students who have come before us, who have helped lay the foundation for continued success and pave the way for future Māori and Pasifika scientists at the University of Auckland.
“Our vision as an association is to champion our Māori and Pasifika scientists, to tautoko their excellence and provide space for them to thrive, particularly culturally and socially. Having met our incredible whānau within the Tuākana space, and seen them investing so much love, energy, and time into their work, gives NISSA an empowering sense of hope, encouragement, and motivation to persevere in our own mahi, backed by a whānau of true legends.”
Matariki for us is a time to remember and honour those staff and students who have come before us, who have helped lay the foundation for continued success and pave the way for future Māori and Pasifika scientists at the University of Auckland.
Strength in difficult times
We also had a chance to talk about manawaroa – wellbeing and resilience – a concept that’s especially topical right now as we make our way through the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Matariki is a time for reflection on the past, present, and future, and part of that is remembrance of those who have passed on. Many of us have likely experienced loss over the past few years, and we have also lost rangitira, such as Pāpā Joe Hawke of Ngāti Whātua. When we experience loss, the reaction can be to isolate ourselves, but meeting together and supporting each other is the best way forward.
Just as Matariki is a time to remember those who are gone, it’s also a time to celebrate those who are still here, and to celebrate the work that our Tuākana coordinators have done over the lockdowns we have been through. The mahi that went into creating a hybrid community and checking in on students while they were forced to study remotely is truly remarkable, and it was great to have a chance to recognise and celebrate those who put in the time and effort.
Piki atu ki te rangi
Matariki is also about the future, and the Kōrero was an opportunity to discuss piki atu ki te rangi – seeking excellence in what we do. Speaking on the possibilities that lie ahead, Te Whare Pūtaiao | Faculty of Science Kaiārahi, Teariki Tuiono, said the programme is excited to explore, “leveraging data to better understand our communities, finding ways to structure our programmes to better serve our students, and helping students and staff alike navigate any anxieties around returning to campus.
“We are looking forward to engaging more with students with success in mind, and letting more people know about what Tuākana is all about.” Until next Matariki, ka kite anō!
This article appears in the 2021 edition of inSCight, the print magazine for Faculty of Science alumni. View more articles from inSCight.