The Taste of Matariki

World Famous Pipiwai Neckchop Stew
World Famous Pipiwai Neckchop Stew

𝐌𝐚𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐤𝐢 𝐭𝐚̄𝐩𝐮𝐚𝐩𝐮𝐚,

𝐌𝐚𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐤𝐢 𝐡𝐮𝐧𝐠𝐚 𝐧𝐮𝐢,

𝐌𝐚𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐤𝐢 𝐚𝐡𝐮𝐧𝐠𝐚 𝐧𝐮𝐢.

𝐊𝐚 𝐫𝐞𝐰𝐚 𝐚 𝐌𝐚𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐤𝐢, 𝐤𝐚 𝐦𝐚𝐨𝐤𝐚 𝐭𝐞 𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐮.

𝐊𝐚 𝐫𝐞𝐰𝐚 𝐚 𝐌𝐚𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐤𝐢 𝐤𝐚 𝐫𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐞 𝐤𝐚𝐧𝐚𝐤𝐚𝐧𝐚.

𝑀𝑎𝑡𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑘𝑖 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑟𝑎𝑖𝑛𝑦 𝑠𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑜𝑛,

𝑀𝑎𝑡𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑘𝑖 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑔𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑡 𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑟 𝑐𝑙𝑢𝑠𝑡𝑒𝑟,

𝑀𝑎𝑡𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑘𝑖 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑝𝑟𝑜𝑣𝑖𝑑𝑒𝑟 𝑜𝑓 𝑓𝑜𝑜𝑑.

𝑊ℎ𝑒𝑛 𝑀𝑎𝑡𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑘𝑖 𝑖𝑠 𝑠𝑒𝑒𝑛 𝑎𝑏𝑜𝑣𝑒, 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑔𝑎𝑚𝑒 𝑖𝑠 𝑝𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑒𝑟𝑣𝑒𝑑.

𝑊ℎ𝑒𝑛 𝑀𝑎𝑡𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑘𝑖 𝑖𝑠 𝑠𝑒𝑒𝑛 𝑎𝑏𝑜𝑣𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑘𝑎𝑛𝑎𝑘𝑎𝑛𝑎 𝑓𝑙𝑜𝑤.

Matariki (Pleiades) is a star cluster that heralds in the Māori New Year and resets our lunar calendar following the next full moon. For some tribes, it is instead Puanga (Rigel) which is easier to spot and rises about 10 or 11 days prior to Matariki, giving unique dates to each tribe in shaping their year ahead as dictated by Hina-Mārama (The moon) and her relationship with our environment here in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Matariki is not celebrated overnight like we would with January 1st but instead consists of a month of activities based on the nine different stars and the significance they hold in their respective parts of the environment. These stars are;

𝐌𝐚𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐤𝐢 - Gathering and Reflecting

𝐏𝐨̄𝐡𝐮𝐭𝐮𝐤𝐚𝐰𝐚 - Remembering those who have passed away

𝐖𝐚𝐢𝐭𝐢̄ - All things to do with Fresh water bodies and their food sources

𝐖𝐚𝐢𝐭𝐚̄ - All things to do with the Ocean and their food sources

𝐖𝐚𝐢𝐩𝐮𝐧𝐚-𝐚̄-𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐢 - Associated with the rain

𝐓𝐮𝐩𝐮-𝐚̄-𝐧𝐮𝐤𝐮 - Associated with the soil and food sources from the ground

𝐓𝐮𝐩𝐮-𝐚̄-𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐢 - Associated with the trees, birds, and their food sources as well as medicinal plants and healing

𝐔𝐫𝐮𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐢 - Associated with the wind, instruments and celebration

𝐇𝐢𝐰𝐚-𝐢-𝐭𝐞-𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐢 - Associated with goal setting and aspirations

This month, I made it my mission to capture and articulate the taste of Matariki and I admit, it was pretty tricky but was an amazing journey! not only around Te Taitokerau, Northland but right accross the North Island.

With Matariki being a month long occurrence, no single dish or experience could begin to describe and do our Māori New Years justice so I'd like to share a range of experiences throughout the month that collectively paint the picture of what Matariki tastes like to me.

𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐚𝐮𝐧𝐠𝐚𝐭𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐚 | 𝐶𝑜𝑛𝑛𝑒𝑐𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛

When Matariki became visible which saw a small intimate gathering of friends of whom we call our tribe, coming together at home here in Whangarei and sharing in some hot pure 100% Peruvian cacao with chili and coconut cream, karakia (prayer) and kōrero (conversation) till everyone drifted off to sleep beside each other early hours of the next morning. Matariki-hunga-nui, Matariki the gatherer of people.

- 𝑃𝑎̄ 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑠𝑜𝑚𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑡𝑟𝑖𝑏𝑒

𝐀𝐫𝐨𝐡𝐚 | 𝐿𝑜𝑣𝑒

The next week I took a trip out to one of my ancestral homes, to a little place called Pipiwai to visit some of our old people. I was greeted by one of my Grand-Aunts who had just started her famous lamb neckchop stew over the open fire. We sat around the fire with family of all generations ukulele strumming, spoon tapping, singing, laughing and story-telling for hours until the stew was ready. It was body warming, tasty, tender and filling. I asked my Grand-Aunt what her secret was and she smiled, winked and said aroha.

- 𝑊𝑜𝑟𝑙𝑑 𝐹𝑎𝑚𝑜𝑢𝑠 𝑃𝑖𝑝𝑖𝑤𝑎𝑖 𝑁𝑒𝑐𝑘𝑐ℎ𝑜𝑝 𝑆𝑡𝑒𝑤

𝐀𝐡𝐮𝐫𝐞𝐚 | 𝐶𝑢𝑙𝑡𝑢𝑟𝑒

The following weekend, I took a spontaneous trip down to Iramoko Marae, near Whakatāne with my cousin to celebrate the opening of a new school of Māori Astrology. Our day started at 5am upon a mountain behind the Marae with 360° views of all the stars in the Heavens. It was an icy cold but beautiful ceremony filled with ancient chants, karakia and knowledge to call in Matariki and the Māori New Year. After the sun had risen we were welcomed by the home people of Iramoko onto the Marae and then in to the dining hall, As we entered the local youth were singing and performing waiata containing knowledge of one of their ancestors, Wairaka, the home people were serving cups of tea and dishing out hot bowls of porridge and strangers sitting together as one and forming new bonds. If that wasn't enough, we headed to the Rotorua Polynesian Spa to get the cold out of us before being hosted by the Mitai family at Mitai Māori Village. We were treated to a tour of the lands and its history, a strong and authentic Kapa Haka performance and a beautiful Hāngi which is a traditional meal cooked in an earth oven. Is it Matariki without a Hāngi?

- 𝐻𝑎̄𝑛𝑔𝑖 𝑏𝑢𝑓𝑓𝑒𝑡 𝑎𝑡 𝑀𝑖𝑡𝑎𝑖 𝑀𝑎̄𝑜𝑟𝑖 𝑉𝑖𝑙𝑙𝑎𝑔𝑒, 𝑅𝑜𝑡𝑜𝑟𝑢𝑎

𝗠𝗮𝗻𝗮𝗮𝗸𝗶𝘁𝗮𝗻𝗴𝗮 | 𝐻𝑜𝑠𝑝𝑖𝑡𝑎𝑙𝑖𝑡𝑦

After having all of these absolutely beautiful experiences with people, places and food O returned back to the North with one week left to capture this "taste of Matariki" I was invited to help Judge dishes using only ingredients sourced from our local farmers market with Matariki as an underlying theme. These dishes were produced by aspiring chefs and students at Northtecs cooking school. The dishes were stunning in presentation and absolutely delectable but they were missing something. I spoke to some of the students and asked them "what was the one thing that could of enhanced the taste of their dishes by a hundred fold?"... the answers were "Salt & Pepper", "An organised kitchen" and "A great Chef" and some other fancy chef words that no one would understand. I nodded and agreed and said "that may be so, however, it is manaakitanga." You can have the most beautiful dish, tastiest ingredients or best skills in the kitchen, but it is lost without manaakitanga.

- 𝐽𝑒𝑠𝑠' 𝑤𝑖𝑛𝑛𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑇𝑎𝑚𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑙𝑙𝑜 𝐶𝑟𝑢𝑚𝑏𝑙𝑒 & 𝑆𝑜𝑟𝑏𝑒𝑡

The whanaungatanga (connection) felt when eating with those you hold dear,

The aroha (love) put in to the preparation of food for your guests around a roaring fire, The display of ahurea (culture) to liven up the room with song and dance,

That is what sweetens any meal, from a hot glass of cacao to a tender neckchop stew, from a humble bowl of porridge to a traditionally cooked hāngi, that is manaakitanga, that is the taste of Matariki.

- - -

Words and images by Kaitaki Collective member - Shaquille Shortland of Ngāti Hine is affectionately known as Pā Shaq. @pa_shaq

Pā is the Founder and Director of Tūāpapa Māori Language Academy & Consultancy @_tuapapa_ and has received several national awards for his mahi such as the NZ Impact Award 2019 and KiwiBank New Zealander of the Year Local Community Hero Award 2020. Pā is a kaitiaki of ancestral knowledge and has a passion for exploring creative ways of sharing that knowledge.

Words by eatnewzealand