For Matariki at Britomart, we commissioned illustrator Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho (Tūhoe, Ngāti Porou, Rongowhakaata, Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, Ngāti Kahungungu) to depict each of the nine stars in the Matariki cluster. Here, they talk a little bit about the meaning of Matariki. 

What was your process for creating this series of illustrations, and what overall effect were you aiming for?

Creating these illustrations was a really great opportunity to educate the wider public on the importance of Matariki in a highly public forum. In terms of process, this was the first project I’ve worked on in a while that required me to do a lot of research, and it was fun to deepen both my understanding of and relationship to Matariki through learning more about each of the nine stars of Matariki. I wanted to treat this as an educational exercise more than anything, so the most important thing to me was creating images that clearly communicated the qualities of each of the stars within the Matariki constellation.

What does Matariki mean to you?

Matariki for me is a time of grief and release, but also renewal and regeneration. It’s a chance to reflect on the year that has just gone, and mourn those who I've lost. Ultimately it’s an opportunity to reconnect with my loved ones, and celebrate the connections that have sustained me and my wellbeing in the past year.

Is it something you celebrated as a child?

From what I can remember, no. That being said, I grew up in a way that celebrated and encouraged all of the things that I now associate with Matariki year-round. 

How will you be acknowledging Matariki this year?

I usually like to share kai and kōrero with my loved ones, and reflect on the year that has just passed. It’s also a great time to reflect on our goals and aspirations for the coming year. 

How do you feel about it becoming a public holiday next year?

I think it’s a good step. I encourage and celebrate any widespread public recognition of concepts or events that hold great importance within Te Ao Māori. 

What else are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on a mural project, some book illustrations and a lot of logos, but I’m also excited to take some time off soon.

Matariki is associated with reflection, hope, our connections to the environment and gatherings of people. Matariki is also representative of the health and wellbeing of people.

Pōhutukawa is associated with those who have passed on, a reminder of those who are no longer with us in the physical realm.

Waitī is associated with all bodies of freshwater and the food sources sustained within them.

Waitā is associated with the ocean and all food sources within it.

Waipuna-ā-Rangi is associated with the rain.

Tupuānuku is associated with every food source that is harvested from or grown within the soil.

Tupuārangi is associated with everything that grows within or is sustained by the trees: fruits, birds and berries.

Ururangi is associated with the winds.

Hiwa-a-te-rangi is tasked with granting our wishes and helping us to realise our aspirations for the coming year.

Huriana's work is being displayed on the Pavilions in Te Ara Tahuhu and on the construction hoardings outside the Barrington and Sofrana buildings in Customs Street East.