Google celebrates Waitangi with special homepage

By Candice Luke

Google's Waitangi Day doodle. Image / Supplied

Global tech company Google is commemorating Waitangi Day 2023 with a special doodle created by Māori digital artist Hori-Te Ariki Mataki.

Mataki, of Ōtautahie and founder of Ariki Creative, has been a multi-disciplinary digital designer since the 1990s, honing skills that originated on the keypads of a Nintendo, developing further with Adobe platforms, and starting his company in 2007.

Back then, his main focus was illustration and graphic design for iwi and local community groups.

Today his art will be seen nationally as Google holds the top spot for the most visited site, processing over 8.5 billion searches globally each day.

“I received an email like any other job but seeing the word Google in an email is pretty rare. It’s my first time being contacted by them so I was pretty excited,” Mataki says.

“I feel really lucky. I feel the same way with huge clients like Google, as well as our whanau clients. I just feel really proud to be part of a kaupapa.”

With whakapapa to Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kauwhata, Te Āti Haunui a Pāpārangi, and Ngāi Tahu, the creative stays true to his roots, building upon the cultural foundation laid by those before him.

But he also calls himself an urban Māori futurist, blending modern technology with the lessons of his tūpuna.

Tūpuna like his great-grandmother, Amiria Manutahi Stirling, who was well known for her service to Ngāti Porou and in Tāmaki Makaurau during the urban drift of Māori after World War II.

Mataki had a full life growing up in Aranui in the eastern suburbs of Ōtautahi. His love for his community started early on.

“My grandmother had kids in her house from broken homes, the same as my mother and father. Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, there were always kids around us that were from all these different communities.”

His parents ran a Mātua Whāngai home taking care of tamariki Māori in the state care system.

“For our family it gave us a sense of how lucky we were to have our language and culture around us, and our families around us doing well.”

Despite being contracted by industry giants like Google, Mataki says it’s important to stay connected to hāpori (community).

“Success is common in our community but it’s isolated. We have individuals that get really successful but then you never see them or they disconnect from where they’re from. I never wanted to have that sense of being away from where I grew up.”

Through Ariki Creative he has kept his whānau values, pioneering a dedicated pathway for countless young Māori into the digital industry.

“In the community I grew up in there was not a lot of belief in what is possible, so part of what we do at Ariki is to push through what is possible, building inspiration and belief in what we can do.”

Ariki Creative has encouraged 25 young interns over five years, with some of them joining the team long-term.

Mataki says there is space for Māori and Pasifika creatives to thrive in the digital world and he encourages up-and-coming artists to take that step.

“It’s our artwork. Tradition designs, art forms, and ideas put into the forefront of one the leading companies on the planet. To me, that’s unique and it speaks volumes about how far we’ve come.

“Our art forms don’t have to be stuck in tradition. We have an opportunity to take them to the world and see them for another 150 years. It’s not something in the stone age. It’s in the tech age and silicon era, and we still carry our ancestors with us along the way.”

Acknowledging the political contention of Waitangi Day, Mataki hopes his art garners a “bit of positive attention and discussion”.

About the art: Protection and partnership in today’s Waitangi Day doodle

“One of the core principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi is protection and partnership. This tiki art form represents the ambitions of our tipuna, and honours the aspirations of both Māori and the wider community for protection of land, community and partnership,” says Hori-Te-Ariki Mataki of the artwork he has designed for today’s local Google Doodle.

Shared today for all in Aotearoa to see on New Zealand’s Google homepage, this doodle celebrates the ambitions of two cultures and their shared desire to protect and provide for their people. Taking its likeness from pounamu, a taonga in Māori culture, the colours represent the physical — land, sea and air — taonga of tangata whenua. “The outstretched arms of the tiki represent the integration of cultures and future innovation to protect these natural domains of our environment, the flora and fauna, for all generations to come,” Mataki explained.

Aotearoa New Zealand today recognises Te Tiriti o Waitangi, which was signed on February 6, 1840. Kiwis’ search interest in Te Tiriti o Waitangi has tripled over the past 12 months in New Zealand, showing a growing desire to learn more. Searches for the Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi reached a 10-year high in May.

Of his work, Mataki said the use of “language, art forms and philosophies of our ancestors and tikanga Māori allow us to create, communicate and connect. And the latest technologies in design and strategy help our people toward a better future”.

Public Interest Journalism, funded through NZ On Air