Matariki, the Māori new year, is a time for reflection, new beginnings and yes, celebration! Auckland always knows how to put on a good time and this is especially true where Matariki is concerned, with everything from hāngi lunches and kite flying, to full-blown festivals and street parties popping up across the city.
So let's join in the festivities—which also honour how Māori navigators were guided to New Zealand by the stars, including a cluster called, you guessed it, Matariki—and celebrate this incredibly unique part of our culture.
Vector Lights For Matariki
Auckland Harbour Bridge
Auckland is getting lit big-time this Matariki with one of the city's most prominent landmarks—the Auckland Harbour Bridge—playing host to an incredible light show portraying the history of the host iwi, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei and their migration to New Zealand. The show will play for five minutes, every half hour from 6pm until midnight, right through until Sunday 11 July. Te Ara I Whiti/The Lightpath (aka the hot pink cycleway winding its way through central Auckland) will also feature a light show in celebration of the season, so grab your bike (or you best pair of walking shoes) if you want your festivities with a side of fitness.
Matariki At Takutai
Britomart is getting into the Matariki spirit with a bunch of exciting events and activations. Amongst them, piping hot hāngi lunches prepared by Rewi Spraggon, who will be creating an epic hāngi pit in Takutai Square between Wednesday 23-Friday 25 June (dibs on the last smoky hāngi pie!). Local kapa haka groups will be showing off their skills at free daily performances (Wednesday 23-Saturday 26 June), while you can also catch music from up-and-coming Māori singer-songwriters (again, Wednesday 23-Saturday 26 June). And don't miss the amazing works of art from Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho, each personifying one of the nine stars of the Matariki cluster. The festivities will conclude on Friday 9 July with Te Korakora on Takutai—a free concert featuring top Māori artists such as Ria Hall, Mara TK, DJ Spell and La Coco.
Ōrākei Manu Aute Kite Day
Take Mary Poppins' advice and go fly a kite this Matariki at the annual Ōrākei Manu Aute Kite Day on Saturday 26 June. Watch kites of all shapes and sizes take to the skies above Michael Joseph Savage Memorial Park in Ōrākei, in an incredible visual spectacle inspired by the manu aute and manu tukutuku (kites) once used by Māori to communicate between tribes and with the heavens. You can even make and fly a kite yourself, complete of course with a message of your own. For those living on the opposite side of Auckland, a similar event will be taking place at Mt Roskill.
Te Karanga ā Hape
K' Rd comes alive this Matariki with an epic street party taking place on Saturday 26 June. Dubbed Te Karanga ā Hape, this vibrant event is also celebrating the road's exciting new look so the organisers are pulling out all the stops including live music, exhibitions, free workshops and walking tours, fashion installations, free kai and fusion boil-ups, lights aplenty and our fave—a dedicated Matariki market. Hosted by Karanga Ink, you'll love getting amongst the many amazing arts, crafts, clothing and other goodies up for grabs. These guys will also be indigenising the Cross Street Arcade with Te Ara Whai Māramatanga—an art installation representing the nine stars of Matariki and which runs right up until Sunday 11 July.
What better way to celebrate Matariki than with an evening of powerful song and performance from some of the country's top female artists, alongside a number of fresh-faced new acts. Anika Moa, Annie Crummer, Georgia Lines and Paige and Tami Neilson are just some of the incredible musos who will be taking to the stage at the Civic theatre on Friday 2 July with a mix of reimagined classics, original songs, and waiata Māori in what has been described as a true celebration of Matariki and the power of strong women.
Matariki At Viaduct Harbour
Matariki is already off to a delicious start at the Viaduct, where some of its most-loved eateries are sharing dishes inspired by the season. Sink your teeth into hāngi pork sandos with kumara mayo over at Saint Alice (washed down with a honey and kiwifruit mocktail, no less)—get amongst oyster beignet and mussel fritters at Oyster & Chop—or fill your belly with bacon bone croquettes and kumara skins with NZ goats' cheese, honeycomb and foraged herbs at Parasol & Swing. We're also super excited about the epic light installation coming from artist Angus Muir, which will illuminate Market Square every night from 5pm between Friday 2 July-Saturday 10 July. Named ‘Ngā Mata o te Ariki’ (‘The Eyes of God’), it brings the stars from the Matariki cluster to life, expressed through colour and moving depictions on the ceiling of the installation.
Puanga Matariki Hakari—New Year's Feast At Ahi
Rewi Spraggon is one busy man this Matariki, joining his longtime friend Ben Bayly over at top Commercial Bay eatery, Ahi for a very special long lunch on Saturday 3 July. Described as a blend of their culinary experiences, this five-course feed is set to be one super unique—and incredibly tasty—way to celebrate Matariki.
Matariki On The Waterfront
Silo Park will once again be set alight (both literally and figuratively) when Matariki on the Waterfront returns for another year, this Saturday 3-Sunday 4 July. The figurative part? You'll get to take in a whole bunch of awesome and 'enlightening' Matariki-themed experiences, including watching traditional weavers do their craft, and filling your face with yummy, traditional Māori kai. The literal part? Doing all of that, while sitting fireside. Sounds perfect.
Ngā Whetū O Matariki
Stardome Observatory & Planetarium
If you want to know more about the Matariki cluster, go straight to the source—and by that, we mean the sky itself. Enter Stardome Observatory & Planetarium, who are hosting Ngā Whetū o Matariki—a Matariki-themed show featuring animated stories projected onto the planetarium’s ceiling with commentary from Stardome’s very own astronomy experts, including Josh Kirkley (Kāi Tahu), followed by a viewing through their incredible courtyard telescopes (weather permitting). Show runs until August 1st.
Commercial Bay is getting a Matariki makeover of sorts this June/July, with a number of retail stores throughout the precinct being re-imagined as spaces for contemporary Māori artists and their taonga as part of the Whānau Mārama exhibition. Amongst them, local leather goods label, Yu Mei, who will be displaying hand-painted canvas bags by Nikau Hinden (Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi, Ngai Tūpoto)—and world-famous designer bag brand, Kate Spade, who will showcase sculptural crochet art representing the pohutukawa whetu (star) by husband-and-wife duo Lissy (Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Kahu) and Rudi Robinson—Cole (Ngāruahine, Ngāti Tu, Ngāti Paoa, Waikato). Whānau Mārama has been curated by Jade Townsend, who has herself created a rather epic artwork featuring the stars of the Matariki cluster, some standing up to 3m tall. Spark are also getting in on the festivities by offering a VR Matariki experience in-store, created by Maru Nihoniho (Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau a Apanui, Ngāi Tahu).
Bay of Islands Matariki Festival
Of course, Matariki celebrations aren't limited to Auckland and one spot that's going all-out for the occasion is the country's birthplace, the Bay of Islands. Steeped in cultural significance, this gorgeous region is bringing us more than 20 different events as part of a brand-new Matariki festival running from Friday 2 July-Sunday 11 July. Amongst the celebrations? Story-telling, music, Matariki-inspired feasts, vineyard tours and some of the best star-gazing in the land (sorry Auckland, but there's just something about the air up here). However if you can only make it to one event, we recommend the Fullers GreatSights Matariki Dawn Cruise, closely followed by a four-course indigenous dinner over at the historic Duke of Marlborough Hotel, prepared by top Māori chefs like—you guessed it—Rewi Spraggon.
For more exciting Matariki events, check out Auckland Council's Matariki Festival website.
Image credit: Mark Russell