Pounamu Wharekawa (Ngāi Te Rangi) is an artist based in Kirikiriroa Hamilton. 

This Matariki, Re: commissioned them for our Matariki illustrations. 

Re: head of content Anna Harcourt had a chat to them about what this time of year means to them.

Tell me about the designs you've made for Matariki

What I like about Matariki is that it’s cyclical. It's bringing in the new year but it's also recognising that connection to the dead. I was also trying to capture the whānau vibes.

In all of my work, I try and do the acknowledgement of whakapapa and where you come from, because if you don't know where you come from, how do you know where you're going?

And one of the main things I tried to chuck in was peaceful vibes. This is a time of whakatau [rest or settle] - a lot of the people I know are trying to chill out over Matariki and use it as a time to reset and reassess.

I know for some people Matariki can feel a bit hectic, especially for artists who get commissioned to make Matariki works, but I was trying to capture that vibe of how I'm trying to be over Matariki - trying but maybe not achieving.

What does Matariki mean to you?

I haven't really done the whole Matariki thing since I was a kid so I'm now just trying to figure out what it means to me as an adult.

When I was a kid we’d go to Matariki festivals. I grew up in small towns, and there would always be little wānanga and workshops, especially for kids. Also going to kura kaupapa, that's where we would learn about it as well.

I don't have many plans for Matariki this year, so I’m just gonna keep it in my mind, but my friends are doing a whole heap of things. 

However you want to celebrate it, it’s good.

How will you be celebrating Matariki?

Just trying to rest, maybe try and connect with some homies and have some good kōrero and assess what I'm trying to do for the new year. 

I set Pākehā New Year goals and then Matariki New Year goals.

The Pākehā New Year is more about professional goals, things really concentrated on self improvement. 

Matariki is focussing on personal growth, like I want to sleep better, stuff that's more important in the grand holistic scheme of things but kind of gets pushed aside because the other stuff feels more important.

I've got quite a few friends who, if they set a New Year’s resolution and if they haven’t gotten started on it by Matariki, they're like, this is a reset, this is when the new year starts.

How do you feel about the first public holiday this year?

It's pretty cool, it's definitely encouraged more kōrero about it in different circles. 

Even as Māori, even if you didn’t do the whole Matariki thing, you still know when it is, you still have your default little practices around it, so it's cool to see other people having those thoughts and conversations, not only for them, but it also encourages Māori to think about it as well.

I like seeing more integration of Māori traditions into mainstream stuff. Because we have people pushing reo but I think events and things are just as important, if not more so. 

I liked your point about capturing the peaceful vibes - I feel like it’s so nice to have an acknowledgement that in winter we need to take a break. Having so many of our public holidays in summer is nice so we can go to the beach, but in winter you do end up feeling the grind, and there’s a reason why so many cultures have a mid-winter feast or celebration. How do you feel about taking a break in winter?

I’m a sucker for a break. It’s perfect timing for having a little extra day in the middle of winter. It's a bloody good time for it.

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