Storytelling at Matariki and Puaka

Starry cluster of new pukapuka give a bigger picture on Matariki

Find part one: Starry cluster of new pukapuka give bigger picture on Matariki here.

In May, Kaitakawaenga Maatakiwi Wakefield and Pou Kohikohinga (Māori Collections Specialist) Ngapiu Tainui Maclure, Māori Services at Christchurch City Libraries, added an additional star to their cluster of Matariki activities: leading the books selection for Kete Books’ Winter Reading 2024 catalogue.

In te ao Māori, storytelling holds a significant role. ‘Like waiata, haka, karakia, stories are a critical part of the intergenerational transmission of knowledge’, says Maatakiwi.

‘Puaka and Matariki was a time whānau would gather together to recall past events, their history, and connections to places and people. It’s a time of remembrance, it’s a time of learning and so it is also the time of the whare wānaka or winter schools of learning.’

‘Here in the South, Puaka is seen in the sky roughly 28 days before Matariki. It’s a signal that the old year is coming to an end. In the past, people would gather to be together during this time, to share food and to whakamoe tau which involves both a review of the season that has passed, and planning for the future,’ Maatakiwi says.

‘Prior to colonisation each season was considered a ‘tau’. But now ‘tau’ tends to mean a year and kaupeka has replaced it for season. Matariki and Puaka were important in the process of whakamoe tau as they are indicators of the coming year.’

‘Our stories are oral, our books are preserved as names of places. Each name recalls oral traditions of events, ancestors, people and places. It was important and commonplace to lay names on hills, rivers and other features to preserve our history. These reconnect us to our lands and thus the environment. Some of those names were carried from places of origin such as the Pacific, from Hawaiki, and serve as reminders of our past.’

So what are Maatakiwi and Ngapiu looking forward to reading themselves over the coming weeks?

Hine Toa by Ngāhuia te Awekōtuku is on Ngapiu’s list. ‘I’ve read through some of her earlier pieces of writing in our collections – she‘s an amazing mana wāhine.’

‘Winter is my favourite time for reading,’ Maatakiwi says as she flips through the pages of Evolving by Judy Bailey, ‘I’m finding this a really lovely read.’

Their team also contributes to the So Many Stories podcast, available on both Plains FM and the Christchurch City Libraries website. This Puaka and Matariki they’re continuing on from their theme last year, inspired by Rangi Mātāmua and Miriama Kamo’s Matariki Around the World. ‘Some of the stories have been amazing. We’ve talked with colleagues from Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Fiji, Mexico and China – and a colleague who is first nations American about traditions around the rising of the cluster in those places,’ says Ngapiu.

About Maatakiwi Wakefield & Ngapiu Tainui Maclure
Maatakiwi Wakefield (Kāi Tahu whānui, Te Ati Awa, Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Maniapoto) is Kaitakawaenga with Māori Services at Christchurch City Libraries.

Ngapiu Tainui Maclure (Kāi Tahu whānui, Te Rarawa) is a Pou Kohikohinga (Māori Collections Specialist) with Māori Services at Christchurch City Libraries

Read the first instalment in this two part interview ‘Starry cluster of new pukapuka give a bigger picture on Matariki’