Love is in the Air - Matariki the Great Gatherer, 3-26 June

by Insiders Dunedin

Pipiri ki te rangi, Pipiri ki te whenua

Matariki hunga nui

There’s no denying winter has snuck up on Dunedin and stuck its cold hands down our backs. Everyone’s got a touch of the blahs and it’s hardly surprising: it’s dark at 4.30, your legs are so hairy the dog looks bald in comparison and the frosty mornings make it pretty hard to get out of bed sunny side up. Ice on the windows, ice in my heart. Full moon and thunder, every time we part …. Ahem. Sorry, I’m just getting ready for Marae Idol. I love to sing! Whether people love to hear it or not will soon be discovered, because winter also means Matariki and this year’s festival is bigger and better than ever. With so much to do, see, eat, laugh at and learn about, there’s no time for hibernation. You might need a wee lie down after, though.

First, look up. Winter’s not all drizzle and sleet: the starry starry nights are a marvel. Shining brightest before dawn are Matariki or the Pleiades, heralding the Maori New Year. Traditionally a time to remember loved ones, take stock and make plans for the future, its most of all the season for gathering in, the season of hugs and wonder. With the more stars you can see, the better the planting ahead, Dunedin is blessed with a bonus star: Puaka, principal star of Ngai Tahu, not visible in the north island. Another blessing: unlike in northern cities, most of our Matariki events are free. We’re just nicer that way.

Matariki in Dunedin is also about bringing the wider community in. Never been to a marae? Now’s your chance, with events held at three different ones and celebrations at schools all over the city. There will be an incredible light display in the Octagon, Pecha Kucha, weaving workshops, massage, public talks, taiaha lessons, exhibitions, theatre, awesome astrology, dance workshops and hangis. An uplifting, interactive festival in a time of grey skies, you can make connections, learn stuff (like how to trace your whakapapa), go somewhere you’ve never been, and hear a Howard Morrison-style big band belt out some swing.

Desiree Williams, who has spent the last 9 years getting Matariki celebrations up and running in Dunedin, says the absolute highlight, the one event she looks forward to every year, is Marae Idol at Araiteuru. Or at least she did. The festival growing in terms of things happening in the centre city, she believes people “shouldn’t have to trundle into town and pay $50 to take part.” Events are spread so there’s something happening near you, something to fit every pocket and personality. “Galleries of art where no one will talk to you, or Marae Idol, where someone will come up and ask, “What’s your waiata?” So let the company and comradeship of others bring a rosy glow to those chilly cheeks. The stars are bright, as are your future prospects for fun, food and friendship. Love is in the air. Come on, bring it in. Now, where’s that microphone?

Post submitted by Lisa Scott

Photography by Rewa Pene

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