Printmaking Ideas for Matariki

Matariki, the Māori New Year, is a uniquely New Zealand celebration. 
 In winter the star cluster Matariki (the Māori name for Pleiades)
re-appears on the horizon again after being absent since autumn.
This signals a time to come together to acknowledge the successes of the past year, 
to celebrate and to look towards the year ahead.

My friend Martin Langdon helped with plans for Matariki at Auckland Art Gallery,
and he recently wrote about five criteria he sees as most important to Matariki kaupapa:
Te Ao Māori (Māori world) – The meaning and tradition of Matariki, stories and significance
Korero (Dialogue) – language, discussion, talks, communication, interpretation
Kai (Food) – nurturing, growing, harvesting, sharing of food
Tangata (People)Whānau, family, whakapapa, relationships, intergenerational learning
Whenua (Land) – Site, history, place, architecture, environment, sustainability

There is still time to organise a project or event.
Here's a few of my own thoughts about how NZ Printmakers may like to celebrate Matariki this year:

New Year, New Beginnings
Marking the start of the Māori New Year, Matariki is a time of new beginnings.
For some iwi (tribes), the stars form the first whare wānanga (house of learning) in the sky.
As Matariki is in winter, it's a great time to learn a new skill, start a new printmaking project,
  about the previous year, celebrate successes, and to plan for the future.

  • Take time to korero (dialogue) all that positive things in your life over the past year, review the artwork you made, recognise what is successful and unique
  • Set some new goals and prepare for what you need to do to achieve this in the year ahead
  • Enroll in a course, learn a new skill or printmaking technique 

Penny Stotter, Matariki, 
Screenprint, 41x55cm, edition of 50

The Eyes of Matariki
Matariki has two meanings, both of which refer to the cluster of stars; 
Mata Riki means “Tiny Eyes”, and Mata Ariki means “Eyes of God”. 

  • Be open to looking at your artmaking from a different perspective, to view your ideas through different ‘eyes’, smaller or larger 
  • Consider a different cultural or spiritual perspective, meaning, tradition, interpretation (eg see the world through the Eyes of God)

Rakai Karaitiana, Matariki, 2011
Screenprint, edition of 50

Enjoy Our Whenua (Land)
 Traditionally, Matariki was the time to plant trees and prepare the land for planting crops. 
 Take time to acknowledge the land which provides food, medicine, and resources for building etc. 
  • Learn about native trees, plants, birds and animals. Spend some time in a garden or nature
  • Make an artwork about the place you live, journey or connection to the site you call 'home'
  • Make an artwork about the history, landmarks or environment of your local area
  • Consider ways your artmaking practices could be kinder to the environment or more sustainable - Check out Mark Graver's book about Non-Toxic Printmaking

Charlotte Graham, Tirairaka (detail), 2010
Woodcut, 64x49cm, edition of 30

Feasting and Friends
Matariki follows the end of the harvest season and therefore was a time of plenty for Maori - 
the food stores were packed full of kai; kumara, pikopiko, preserved eel, birds and other delicacies. 
Matariki can be a time to share, show hospitality, to respect others, to gather, feast, 
and celebrate the accomplishments of the previous year and rejoice in the year ahead together. 
  • Prepare a Matariki feast to farewell the old year, welcome the new year with family & friends 
  • Consider something you have to spare from last year, give it away to somebody who needs it 
  • Share your time or resources with others, participate in a community project or art exchange
  • Learn from the knowledge or skills of another artist or family member
  • Build relationships and show hospitality by sharing a meal with other artists and printmakers 

Cerisse Palalagi, Matariki #3, 2008
Screenprint on paper, 31x25cm, 1 of 1

Family Whakapapa
Whakapapa (family history) gives us our connections to each other and the land,
forming our identity. 
Matariki may be a time to remember those who have passed away
 or to learn more about your family. 

  • Start or update your own family tree or whakapapa chart
  • Gain knowledge and collect stories about your whakapapa (lineage and family members)
  • Take time to look at old family photograph albums, letters, scrapbooks and other records 
  • Make an artwork to commemorate members of your family or where your family comes from. Remember your whakapapa or personal stories of family should be treated as a taonga (treasure) 

Sam Farquhar, Te Whakamahana o Matariki, 2008
Woodcut, 76x54cm

Celebrate Māori Culture & Language 
Reo Māori is an intrinsic part of the culture of Aotearoa New Zealand 
and is becoming increasingly common in greetings, official functions and in education. 
Matariki is the ideal time for us to do something more to further to embrace Māori culture, 
this month of Matariki also includes te wiki o te reo Māori – Māori language week.

Feel free to add a comment below if you know of any print-related Matariki events
or if you are making prints for any Matariki exhibitions.