In having worked at Te Wananga o Aotearoa for several years now, I’m come to enjoy singing waiata (Maori songs) which are often so melodic with lovely harmonies (that I bring from my Samoan choir days) that I find myself humming them or playing the tunes on the guitar.
This is one such waiata that I’m learning with my class as we celebrate Matariki which is the Maori new year usually around July when a cluster of nine stars (or seven when the other two aren’t seen) in the sky.
The Matariki cluster of stars or constellation is known by other names in the Northern Hemisphere such as the Pleiades and each of the stars has a different name. What I find so fascinating as when I hear the names of the stars and the stories behind them, I know that it is knowledge that would have spanned centuries of observation and understanding that would have been passed down the generations.
Which brings to bear that a lot of knowledge was suppressed during the time of early colonisation and that now there is a renaissance of reclaiming knowledge that was almost lost in time for a new generation to learn from.
I’m only just starting to touch on the amazing knowledge of the stars that would have possibly been common knowledge back in the time of my ancestors’ several generations from the present. So that now when I look up into the night sky, especially in Samoa or American Samoa, the night sky is much clearer and I know that it was a map that was used to navigate to different destinations islands in the Pacific.
So that as we sing this song and celebrate this new season, I am reminded that my ancestors lived at a time when the stars shone brightly and told their own stories, quite alike to the story of Jesus Christ’s birth whereupon a star was the signpost that something new was happening and the wise men followed the star to rest upon the place where the child was born.
I am so grateful to be born at such a time as this as to be able to learn and share these stories that make us unique and grateful also that my ancestry relates back to a time when they were environmentally friendly and had amazing knowledge of the natural world around them…