Hana Pera Aoake on creating Matariki traditions with their young whānau

Writer and artist Hana Pera Aoake, with Miriama Jean.


Writer and artist Hana Pera Aoake, with Miriama Jean.

Hana Pera Aoake (Ngaati Hinerangi me Ngaati Raukawa, Ngaati Mahuta, Tainui/Waikato, Ngaati Waewae, Kaati Mamoe, Waitaha) is an artist, writer and co-founder of Kei Te Pai Press.

OPINION: My partner and I have birthdays a day apart. I’m June 22 and he’s June 23. I’m exactly a year and a day older than him. Our birthdays have always fallen when Matariki rises.

On our last birthdays, we did what a lot of whānau do for Matariki and got together for a shared hakari and cake (Louise cake for me, chocolate cake for Morgan). Except this time it was different, because I had been happy for four months with our first child, Miriama Jean. It was a time that is best described by the whakataukī I read recently by Dr. Rangi Matamua, Matariki ki tua ngā whetū or Matariki of Infinite Possibilities. It was special.

Much like most of our population, I’m a quintessential urban Maori slowly recovering my language, learning raranga, and making sure my daughter knows her story and her whakapapa. It’s a slow, gentle process that’s filled with ups and downs and moments of frustration and joy.

* My First Matariki: Celebrating Maori New Year at the New Bay of Islands Festival
* Matariki celebrations illuminate the land – while the government will further illuminate our use of the sea.
* How Matariki is celebrated across Aotearoa

I am not an expert in Matariki or matauranga. In fact, I think if it was back in the ra, I’m sure I would have been kicked out of my waka because I have no sense of direction, I’m pretty uncoordinated, and I don’t never remember which stars are which constellations.

This year I didn’t get up early to look at the sky and watch Matariki rise, I have a seven month old baby and whenever I can rest I will. I also didn’t help cook a hangi. I’ve spent the last month traveling between the two motu to open six exhibits and take care of my baby. I realized that I had worked too much and needed to rest and even though I managed to finish all my mahi, I will now take some time to reflect and cry.

“These moments in time are the essence of our national identity,” Sir Pou Temara said at a Matariki milestone event at Te Papa in Wellington.

It’s been a tough year with many changes that I’m slowly adjusting to, especially learning to manage and be a mother, an artist, and a good partner with little sleep. I am blessed with a great group of other mothers who supported and lifted me up when I struggled and for whom I am forever grateful.

My own parents live halfway around the world and most of my immediate whānau are scattered across the country. Over the past two weeks I have lost a significant childhood friend, Darrell and I still miss my grandmother Margaret, who we lost during the first lockdown in 2020. I thought about the star a lot, Pōhutukawa, which represents those we have lost. But as I heard Maori artist Emily Karaka say at her recent opening for Matariki – Ring of Fire, “There are a lot of stars.”

For me, Matariki is not a day, nor is it simply a lull in the middle of the Gregorian calendar. It always coincides with my birthday, the busiest time of the year for me and a time when seeing whānau has always felt urgent.

For me, the most important part of Matariki is connecting with the people we love and taking time to rest. This year and in the years to come, we will continue to see our whānau, allowing my daughter to build relationships with people we love.

We are going to swim in beautiful hot springs on my partner’s whenua, visit my nana’s grave on Taupiri, show our daughter her different rivers and maunga, and have my favorite type of hakari, hangī via Nan’s multi kai cooker.

We will sit and eat and chat and laugh and chat with our whanau and just be together. We will remember to slow down and try to rest.

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