Matariki: Time for a spring cleanout and catch up with whānau

By Vaimaila Leatinu'u

Photographer and storyteller Qiane Matata-Sipu at Makaurau Marae. Photo / Jason Oxenham

By Vaimaila Leatinu'u, Te Rito Journalism Cadet

With Aotearoa celebrating its first te ao Māori statutory holiday, Matariki has inspired debate over how it should be celebrated. Award-winning writer and photographer Qiane Matata-Sipu says some people will research and participate in Matariki, while others will not engage.

"Kei a rātou; we can't control everyone," Matata-Sipu said. "There are so many people right across the country who are excited and are learning about Matariki. Let's focus on that in the first instance."

The author, activist and mum of one spoke at last week's ground-breaking M9 Matariki event, alongside eight other inspiring wāhine Māori about their success and reflected on their road to that.

Other speakers included filmmaker Chelsea Winstanley and broadcasters Stacey Morrison and Miriama Kamo.

Matata-Sipu was also a finalist at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, for the self-published book, Nuku, which profiled 100 inspiring indigenous wahine.

One of her Matariki rituals is having a big spring clean inside her whare and also within her physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.

"I go through this period of reflection and purging stuff; I did a big office cleanout. I deleted 6000 emails," she said.

"We've organised our own Matariki awards within our whanau, acknowledging the achievements we've had. It's around that diversity of success and acknowledgement,"

Matata-Sipu and her whānau also practise hautapu, which involves cooking kai in the early morning and gathering to karakia just before dawn when the stars are still visible.

"My husband and I lost a baby last year, so it was an opportunity to recognise that loss. That's part of healing, that's part of grieving to talk about those we've lost," she said.

Another essential aspect for Matata-Sipu is the normalisation of Matariki and te ao Māori for her tamariki.

"For our kotiro, Matariki will be normal for her and her upbringing. I'm passionate about reclaiming these things for our whānau."

Public Interest Journalism, funded through NZ On Air