Adorned with fairy lights and stirred by the sound of karakia, Arrowtown’s main street was filled with harikoa (good cheer) as the first Matariki Arrowtown Lights Festival got under way yesterday.
Under the direction of the Arrowtown Promotion and Business Association (APBA), Buckingham St has been transformed into a galaxy of performances, art installations and cultural events celebrating Matariki.
It was one of many events that took place last night, with a constellation of Maori New Year celebrations across the region.
The Matariki Arrowtown Lights Festival began mid-afternoon with local Cory Ratahi’s karakia and community group Nga Mana Hou’s waiata, before Arrowtown Preschool and Arrowtown Elementary School (APS ) only play kapa haka.
As the sun set, the street was illuminated with projections and light installations, and local astrophysicist Professor Brian Boyle shared his knowledge of the wonders of the night sky, teaching people how to find Matariki and Puaka.
APBA director Nicky Busst said that although the community has been celebrating Matariki for a decade with APS’s kapa haka group and the annual preschool fundraiser, the introduction of a public holiday this year offered the opportunity to turn it into a larger event centered on understanding Matariki.
“We really used the community, and the schools in particular – they are involved in 3D projections and art installations around the city, which are all about Matariki and what it means to them,” Ms Busst said.
The South Island Light Orchestra (SILO) brought the shine of Matariki to the streets with light installations and projections on historic buildings in Arrowtown.
“It’s our first time doing stuff for Arrowtown so it’s pretty cool to be able to splash some color along the course,” said SILO spokesman Simon Holden.
In addition to a “general beautification of the streets” with lights, the karakia projected by SILO onto the Lakes District Museum and illuminated the facade of Athenaeum Hall with Matariki star animation and Professor Boyle’s astrophotography.
Mr. Holden hoped the facilities would uphold the essence of Arrowtown and create an environment to explore the meaning of Matariki.
“At all times, it was important to us that what we were doing was consistent with and respectful of what Matariki is and represents.”
Noting the challenges the historic mining town has faced during Covid-19, Ms Busst said the festival was a chance for the community to come together and practice Matariki tikanga.
“A lot of people have been separated from their friends and their whanau, and to be able to come together and have a reason to celebrate…that’s what Matariki is.”
As people strolled down the cobblestone street enjoying the lights, hot chocolates and hand-roasted marshmallows, she said it was a surreal moment to watch it all come together.
“It’s a very tight-knit community, and we all really care about each other, so everything went perfectly and I’m really proud of everyone.”
The festival, which has received support from the Central Lakes Trust, Community Trust Southland, Destination Queenstown, New Zealand Community Trust and Queenstown Lakes District Council, continues over the weekend with a Kaupapa Maori film festival, SILO facilities every night, live music and food. stalls.
Community and connectedness were also at the heart of Naseby’s Matariki inaugural celebrations yesterday.
About 90 people gathered at Naseby Town Hall to begin celebrations with karakia and korero on Matariki, and a pop-up star science show with StarLab from the Otago Museum.
Maniototo Community group Kapa Haka gave their first official performance, which experience group co-founder Lauren Becker said was “pretty amazing”.
“I love seeing our rangatahi [young people] flourish…and what’s special is that no matter where you go or how long you’re away, you always have a place and these are our songs that we sing and to connect.
“I think it was special – and special to do it for Matariki.”
In the evening, a crowd gathered at Naseby Estate for a community hangi followed by stargazing through telescopes with astronomers on hand to guide you.
Exploration of the night sky and the rise of Matariki continued early this morning.
Matariki was a community collaboration coordinated by Naseby Vision.
Naseby Vision Secretary/Treasurer Hilary Allison said when the holiday was announced the organization was “very keen” to explore what Matariki could mean in Maniototo.
“[We wanted] to start building a story and stories of the goodwill and gratitude that comes with Matariki, remembering those we loved who passed away and hopefully a bountiful harvest, and thinking about plans for the new year. “
She was struck by the goodwill around the event, she said.
“Today exceeded expectations.”
Further south, people also gathered to celebrate at Bluff, with visitors from near and far heading to New Zealand’s southernmost marae yesterday for the second day of their Matariki celebrations.
Te Rau Aroha Marae opened to the public at 2 p.m. to a steady stream of guests who found Matariki’s stories beginning near the entrance with a pathway that displayed the stories of the stars of the Matariki group.
The project was led by Bluff resident Jay Coote and will run for four days.
He said the opening on Thursday saw a good turnout from locals and a steady stream of guests throughout the afternoon.
“One of the biggest highlights is that there is a trail that has been created around the marae whenua so that people can walk around and experience the whole marae, and learn about Matariki and the stars and how important they are to the runaka.”
Many activities and exhibits were available throughout the marae and its grounds, including Maori toi displays, weaving and carving, kai stalls, an open wharenui and marae trail tours.
The celebrations continued into the evening, with the lights being turned on at 5:30 p.m. and continuing until 10 p.m.
The festivities will resume in the afternoon today and tomorrow, and buses to and from the celebrations in Invercargill will be available.
By Lucy Wormald, Ben Tomsett and Shannon Thomson