Last week I had the privilege of attending an evening community event, with some members of my class, to listen to eminent Professor Rangi Matamua discuss his understandings of Matariki (the constellation) with Maori cosmology and understandings of astronomy, it’s origins and storying.
It’s a New Zealand and Australian Roadshow called ‘The Gathering of Matariki’ which is in partnership with the Royal Society (Te Aparangi) and Marsden Funding (Research) to share his indigenous Maori knowledge on Matariki with 20 different venues booked solidly for this event all over New Zealand and Australia.
It was so fascinating to listen to and the fact that he was funny and obviously was used to speaking at local community events. It was refreshing, entertaining and well worth the wait. It wasn’t at all academic, although many of the concepts were interesting in the depth of understanding that one would have in having studied the stars for some two-plus decades.
The things that I took away from the talk was that there was a depth of knowledge in the Maori narratives that he shared around Matariki and the obvious blending with European stories about the nine-star clusters. I also made me consider that this information would have been passed on from one generation to another and that it would have taken centuries for this body of knowledge to have informed earlier generations on planting, harvesting, fishing, trapping etc. in local knowledge of the environment and the seasonal and lunar cycles that appear every year.
Two other things that stood out for me was his statement that ‘we’ are conduits of information from our ancestors and then passing it on to the next generations which is why he is sharing this information openly with communities, for free, and that we should do similarly.
He also reminded me that we should ‘look up’ in meaning that often we forget that there is a huge universe out there and the stars that are able to guide for some, encourage for others or inspire etc. I know that whenever I go to Samoa or American Samoa, I only have to look up and see the roadmap that my ancestors would have used those many centuries ago and now I can see those same stars too…