Making Matariki

Matariki star by Amber Smith
Matariki Hunga Nui exhibition image
Matariki stars by Amber Smith
peg wahine by Su McPherson
Miriama Kamo and her daughter Te Rerehua
The Stolen Stars of Matariki
Andrea Rush talks with Miriama Kamo, Amber Smith and a store owner in Thames about the ways Matariki celebrations are coming to life through their work.


Each year Matariki celebrations are growing and many more New Zealand artists are “making Matariki” by incorporating the spirit of the celebration into their work and bringing it to life for our communities.


Less otherness and more inclusion  

Nelson-based ceramicist, Amber Smith loves making her signature ceramic Matariki stars and this year they will feature in an exhibition at the Little River Gallery on Banks Peninsula – Matariki Hunga Nui – which means Matariki of many people. The exhibition will also feature works by painter Robin Slow and Master carver Brian Flintoff.

“All my works are created around the theme of love, peace and understanding about spiritual elements.

“My theme is also about less otherness and more inclusion as we’ve gone beyond just the European and Maori in New Zealand and this is an especially important message for Christchurch this year.

Amber Smith's Matariki Star

Matariki is also a time when we remember people who have died and our ancestors and a good time to think about what you want to achieve moving forward ... “Titiro Whakamuri, kokiri whakamua - Look back and reflect so you can move forward,” says Smith.

“This is a time to remember those people in our lives who have died and we see them, as stars in the sky, with us, guiding us, as ancestors or angels. we know that that bond is not broken and we can still feel and honour that connection and memory.

Amber Smith’s ceramic Matariki stars include those with the Māori words for hope (tumanako), spirit (wairua), and love (aroha).

Matariki Stars by Amber Smith, image via Bounty Store, Thames


Art creates a talking point

Fiona Cameron, the owner of NZ Design Store gallery “Bounty” which is located Grahamstown the most historic part of the town of Thames, has incorporated Amber’s Matariki stars in her Matariki window display which she creates each year.

“It draws people into the store and is a talking point, she says. “Some people come in and ask what Matariki is others are excited and want to talk about what it means for them. It’s a celebration which connects really well to my customers and my artists and I love the way it is bringing the community together.”

“I find Matariki such a wonderful time of year; it’s such a creative time for me, a mid-winter celebration and the Māori New Year, a time to be creative and share food.”

Fiona also works with her girls’ school on Matariki craft such as Matariki peg wahine dolls with feathered cloaks. Schools in the community are also having shared lunches and dawn services so children can see the stars in the night sky.

“I’ve seen Matariki grow and every year it’s getting stronger,” says Fiona Cameron.

Peg Wahine by Su McPherson, image from Bounty Store


The Stolen Stars of Matariki

Journalist Miriama Kamo’s children’s book The Stolen Stars of Matariki was published in 2018. She has since been nominated in the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adult’s for Best First Book and Best Book written in Te Reo and is also a Storyline’s Notable Book.

Miriama says the book came about after an approach by Scholastic to write about Matariki.

I loved Matariki celebrations but didn’t know much about Matariki, especially growing up, so this was a great way to learn more about it. My husband reminded me to ‘write about what you know’ so that’s reflected in the characters and the adventures they get up to.”

“I know Te Mata Haapuku/Birdlings Flat and it made sense to include my whanau given that it reflected my own childhood.”

“It’s pretty wonderful when communities can come together around a common purpose or event and Matariki provides a perfect focal point for that.”

“Also, it’s a way to connect us to the environment and all the amazing ways that the world works to sustain us. Our job is to give back to the world so that we are in a mutual relationship of sustainability.”

Miriama Kamo and her daughter Te Rerehua

“Matariki is not just about a cluster of stars, it has its own stories embedded in each one, but those stories also relate to the whenua – to planting, growing, harvesting – and to rest.  Rest and connection are vital in the depths of winter, and Matariki calls us to that.”

Imagine if the whole country resonated to those values and knew the stories – it’d be pretty awesome.”

'Matariki Hunga Nui' Exhibition by Brian Flintoff, Bob Bickerton and Amber Smith at Little River Gallery


Little River Gallery on the Banks Peninsula has their Matariki Hunga Nui exhibition running from June 29 until July 24.

Miriama Kamo will be doing a public reading of her children’s book 'The Stolen Stars of Matariki' at the Howick Library on July 17 at 10.30am.

Bounty, a store dedicated to NZ design, can be found at 754 Pollen St, Thames.

Written by

Andrea Rush

19 Jun 2019

Andrea Rush is a writer for the Big Idea. An aspiring novelist, she has a background in journalism, broadcasting, television production and communications. She is passionate about social justice, environment and economics.    

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