Sunday, February 25, 2024

Matariki: Tamaki Makaurau illuminated for festival

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Ferns, kowhai, rainfall and ocean waves are among the visual themes of the Vector Lights for Matariki Festival show illuminating the bridge for Matariki.

The show opens on the Auckland Harbour Bridge at 6pm and plays every half hour until midnight for ten nights during Matariki – 24 to 28 June, 4 to 5 July and 10 to 12 July; supported by landmarks lighting up.

Created by University of Waikato professor Rangi Matamua (Tūhoe), a recognised expert on Māori starlore and author, in collaboration with Auckland Council’s festival director Ataahua Papa, this Vector Lights show tells the story of nine stars.

They are the nine stars described in Professor Matamua’s new book: ‘Matariki The Star of the Year’. Matamua explains that Māori are able to read the Matariki stars and predict the productivity of the year ahead.

He says: “The astronomical experts of the village would keenly observe Matariki in great detail. Each of the nine individual stars would be assessed and mental notes would be taken about their brightness, distinctiveness, colour and distance from the surrounding stars.”

In the Vector Lights for Matariki Festival show, a central star named Matariki appears first in green light on the bridge carrying themes of health and well-being.

Pōhutukawa follows in red. Tipuānuku then depicts earth, trees and forest and a vine is seen growing across the bridge.

The star called Tipuārangi brings a kowhai-coloured light effect and white birds fly above, before twin stars Waitī and Waitā display blue and pāua light, representing river flow and ocean waves.

A star for rainfall, Waipunarangi, then appears, followed by the star for winds, Ururangi. The ninth star to appear at the centre of the bridge in purple is Hiwa i te rangi, the wishing star, enshrouded in a dream-like mist.

For vantage points and to hear the audio narrative as you watch the show, visit:  

Matariki Festival director Ataahua Papa says there is always more than one kōrero for Māori about the stars and some iwi count the Matariki (Pleiades) stars differently. She says Waikato-Tainui celebrate seven stars and other tribes celebrate as many as 25.

Papa says: “Vector Lights, powered by energy from our brightest star, the sun, provides the perfect canvas for us to tell this special Matariki story.”

Light Up Tāmaki

Alongside Vector Lights for Matariki Festival, four other landmarks will be illuminated for Matariki Festival. Called Light Up Tāmaki, the supporting lighting display will begin on the same day as Vector Lights for Matariki Festival – Wednesday 24 June.

Aucklanders will see the orange colour of a Matariki sunrise flood the SkyTower, Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira, Te Ara I Whiti – The Lightpath and the Queen Street lights in the Heart of the City.

Papa says: “Under the banner of kotahitanga (unity), we have come together to celebrate the dawning of a new time.”

Matariki Festival is proudly hosted by Te Kaunihera o Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland Council) in collaboration with Waikato-Tainui, with the support of Vector Lights (principal partner) and Britomart (supporting partner).

For the full Matariki Festival programme, please visit, and this week’s highlights are here.

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