June 25, 2019, 11:31 a.m.
It was a successful day out for Whangārei locals on Saturday as crowds flocked to Hihiaua peninsula for the yearly Matariki festival organised by Ahi Events and the Whangārei District Council.
With over 80 stalls of crafts, clothing, beauty treatments and indigenous kai along with a full stage programme of performances, Event Organiser for the Whangārei District Council Karina De Graaf said the intention of the festival is to grow awareness.
“Our intention is to bring the community together, to bring awareness to this very significant time of year in the Maori calendar and make them aware of the importance of it and our beautiful Maori culture, to be proud of it, to share the reo, to show one anothera whanaungatanga and to look after our beautiful environment,” De Graaf said.
This years event coincided with the official opening of the Hihiaua Cultural Centre where local artists showcased their pieces and spoke at Tohunga Talks. Carver Kaurinui Parata said Matariki is a transitional time to celebrate the year that was and the year that is to come.
Matariki celebrations were significant for Māori before the arrival of Europeans however festivals eventually died out by the 1940’s. At the beginning of the 21st Century marked the revival of Matariki with Hawkes Bay being the first to host a modern day Matariki Celebration in 2000.
Matariki continues to play an important role in the life of modern day Māori and New Zealanders bringing a selection of festivals to celebrate the Māori new year.
“People are a lot more aware about the meaning of Matariki and how important it is to get together as a whānau and share this time of year.
“It’s the culture, the arts and the kai of Te Tai Tokerau that you can’t get anywhere else in Aotearoa and for those reasons, I think people come to Matariki,” De Graaf said.
“The most beautiful thing I love to see is the tamariki running around, their beautiful smiles and enjoying the space and all the culture, arts, the waiata and the kapa haka.”