News | 10 July 2023
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Matariki Puanga with the whānau

We caught up with Te Poiakino Hohua Johnstone from our Māori strategic outcomes team, to hear how he and his family celebrate Matariki Puanga.

Man placing down two plates of food for his two children.

Can you tell us how you’re planning to celebrate Matariki Puanga in your whānau?
As a whānau we have celebrated Matariki for about three years in a row now and a majority of those celebrations are pretty informal. We put togetherness at the core of everything we do and that’s the same for Matariki. 

I guess what’s different about Matariki is the direct link to the whānau who’ve passed away. We usually pull out old photo albums, light a candle, and look through photos of our Nans and Koros. 

Hāngī is also crucial! I usually take the mantle of preparing the hāngī, no one other than Dad (me) touches the hāngī. Prep usually involves an outdoor set-up of my outdoor fireplace and hāngī cooker.

Basket of Hangi inside of a metal pot.

I usually stay up throughout the night watching the stars and making sure our hāngī is cooking well.

At about 5.30am or so, I usually wake the kids up and bring them out by the fire and hāngī and say karakia as I open the lid of the cooker. It's quite special really when I think about it. Then it’s hāngī for breakfast, my favourite part!

What sort of family goals do you have?
We don’t necessarily set goals or anything like that to be honest. However, we use Matariki as almost a halfway marker for us and then prepare for the final half of the pākeha year to make it to Christmas.

Man cooking in a kitchen with two baskets of food.

One of the things we heard from mana whenua is that Matariki is a time for tāne to shine at cooking. Can you tell us more about this?
As I said, no one touches the hāngī cooker in my whare. I’m not entirely sure what tikanga exists around tāne and kai but that is a responsibility that I carry out on a regular basis.

I cook for my partner and kids regularly, it’s something I enjoy doing. In terms of Matariki and how I go about things, I find the quiet time outside with the stars is really helpful for me, to have time to reflect and ponder over things. I also hope that this is passed down to future generations in my whānau, especially my son.

Man feeding his small child at the dinner table.

When you were growing up, did you have any Matariki traditions? 
I grew up knowing not much about Matariki, as I think most people did, unless you were lucky enough to have had someone in your whānau who held onto traditions from a long time ago. I only remember listening to the teacher reading out Matariki books, which now I’ve found out were wrong, it’s quite funny really. 

I really commend people like Professor Rangi Mātāmua for sharing the kōrero and history they have been given. It does a lot for Māori who live in cities and helps us engage more with our culture. 

I recognise the importance of this kaupapa, that’s why we as a whānau will continue to recognise and celebrate Matariki.