Celebrate Matariki, don't commercialise it - Professor Linda Nikora

By Bronson Perich

A Māori academic is happy with the idea of Matariki becoming a public holiday but wants its unique cultural value to be maintained.

Linda Nikora, who co-leads Ngā Pae o te Matauranga and is a professor of indigenous studies at Te Wānanga o Waipapa at Auckland University, is concerned that the true meaning of Matariki will be lost.

"I'm quite fearful that it simply becomes a southern version of Christmas," Linda Nikora says.

If Matariki becomes a public holiday, it shouldn't be just another way to stimulate the economy. Nikora says a Matariki public holiday needs to be constructed in a way that people will buy into, as well as reflecting the past.

Midwinter holiday celebrated with rest

Professor Linda Nikora talks Matariki - Photo / File

"We've also got to remember that Matariki, midwinter, was a hard time for Māori," Professor Nikora says.

"We paused activities that threatened life."

Warfighting and feasting was traditionally stopped in the winter because of the cold conditions.

"There was something to look forward to, in terms of the potential of new growth, crops, the world becoming warmer," Nikora says

How Professor Nikora would celebrate Matariki

If Matariki were to become a public holiday, Professor Nikora says she'd spend it reflecting on life.

"A day of compassion, where we put aside activities that are competitive with other people.

"Where we simply look to express arohā, a little bit more."