WAITUHI Matariki public art series

WAITUHI is an annual series of public art projects timed to coincide with Matariki.

The aim of WAITUHI is to take the festivities and kaupapa of Matariki to a wider audience beyond the traditional arts spaces of the galleries, museums and theatres, to enliven and activate public space with new artwork that acknowledges Māori culture and heritage in the city.

WAITUHI Flags by Tane Morris

Artist Tane Morris (Ngāi Tahu), is the designer of this year's WAITUHI Matariki public art series. His designs depict the nine stars in the Matariki constellation, with ‘Matariki’, mother of the other eight stars, featuring on the Frank Kitts Park waterfront carpark glass doors.

The flags were raised on Thursday 16 June and form part of the Matariki ki Pōneke programme. They are the eighth series of flags that have been raised at Whairepo Lagoon as part of the WAITUHI Matariki public art series, and will remain in place until September 2022.

Read about all nine of the artist’s designs below.

Matariki flag design by Tane Morris.


Matariki (the mother of the eight whetu in the constellation) is represented through the use of a multi-coloured digital cascade that transcends heaven and earth. This design is displayed on the Frank Kitts Park waterfront carpark glass doors.

According to legend, the whetu, Matariki was taken as a wife by the chief of the heavens, Rehua. Traditionally, if Matariki whetu was seen in the night sky, it would be a sign of good luck, peace, and wellbeing. If Matariki was spotted while a person was suffering from an illness, for example, it would be taken as a sign the person would soon recover.

Rehua, like Matariki, was also connected to health where the great lord of the stars was said to have the power to heal. It’s thanks to Rehua and Matariki that knowledge of wellbeing and medicine exists. And today, Matariki is considered to be a good omen of good fortune and vitality. The saying,‘Matariki, huarahi ki te oranga tangata’, translates to ‘Matariki, pathway to the wellbeing of man’.

The following designs are displayed on the Waituhi flags.

Pōhutukawa flag design by Tane Morris.


Pōhutukawa - a tree that’s connected to the dead, particularly those who have passed on since the last rising of Matariki during the month of Pipiri. Here, pōhutukawa is represented through the use of two digital koru that are mirroring each-other. The mirror symbolises the connection between the physical and spiritual worlds.

In Māori custom, when an individual dies, their spirit leaves their body to go on a journey along Te Ara Wairua (the pathway of the spirits). This journey ends at the northernmost point of the North Island at a place called Te Rerenga Wairua (the departing place of the spirits).

It’s here where an ancient pōhutakawa tree stands. The dead then descend the aka (root) of the tree before disappearing into the underworld. Pōhutakawa is the whetu that connects Matariki to those who’ve passed.

Tupuānuku flag design by Tane Morris.


Tupuānuku (the whetu associated with food grown in the ground.) Here, tupuānuku has been represented through the use of a fibonacci spiral - or, the pattern of nature.

When Matariki sets in the western sky at dusk during May, it’s a sign that the Autumn harvest has been completed and winter is near.

Tupuānuku is connected to all cultivated and uncultivated food and forms the basis of the proverb,‘Hauhake tū, ka tō Matariki,’ which translates to: ‘lifting of the crops begins when Matariki sets’.

Tupuārangi flag design by Tane Morris.


Tupuārangi (the star that’s associated with food that comes from the sky.) Here, whetu tupuārangi is represented by a hook that’s descending from the atua (the Gods).

Tupuārangi connects the Matariki cluster to the harvesting of birds and other elevated food such as fruit and berries. Traditionally, during the rising of Matariki, kererū were harvested, cooked, and then preserved in its own fat. ‘Ka kitea a Matariki, kua maoka te hinu,’ means ‘when Matariki is seen, the fat of the kererū is rendered so the birds can be preserved’.

Past projects