Stingray in the sky as Matariki kites fly high over eastern Auckland
A giant stingray and two huge whales were in the sky over eastern Auckland as the kites gathered to celebrate the connection between heaven and earth as part of Matariki.
About 300 people gathered at Auckland’s Michael Joseph Savage Memorial Park in Ōrakei to fly manu aute and tukutuku (kites) as part of the Matariki festival.
The free event was hosted by Auckland Council and local iwi Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei.
Participants could fly or build their own kites, or watch professionals fly giant kites until 4 p.m. on Saturdays.
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Traditionally, kites were used by the Maori to send messages to the heavens and as a means of communication with other hapū (sub-tribes).
Traditional Maori kites were made of bark, linen, and cut grass and were generally well decorated, including feathers, seashells, horns, and carvings.
On Saturday, the sky above Ōrakei was animated with colorful kites, including giant stingray and whale-shaped kites, related to the moana (ocean) theme, related to the star Matariki known as the name of Waita.
Te Papa. Image courtesy of Fraser Gunn
Educator Martin Langdon shows us how to find the Matariki star cluster during the Maori New Year, which falls in the month of Pipiri (June-July).
Lisa Davis from Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei said the event was important for sharing Matariki’s message.
“If it sparks an interest in people learning more, that’s pretty special. “
She said that maintaining the kite-flying tradition was a way to foster connection with Maori te ao (Maori worldview).
“It’s inviting people to our whenua [land]. “
Manu aute and tukutuku expert Ruth Woodbury – a descendant of Kupe and the Te Hikutu and Ngāti Korokoro hapū – said that traditionally essential survival skills have been used to make and fly kites.
Wind was generally an obstacle for Maori, but kites taught them to read the seasons
It also taught the Maori how to protect the environment, for example they would avoid “trampling” on resources that could be used for kites, Woodbury said.
When life was calm, making and flying kites kept the mind – and the skills needed in combat – sharp.
Logistics plans were essential, especially for some of the larger kites, which would need more than one person to fly them.
Overall, the kite was a fun activity for Maori, she said, adding that many reportedly have their own waiata.
“If you have a kite in the air, it’s really hard to be cranky.
“They are a vehicle for imparting knowledge, prayers and storytelling.”