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New exhibition shines the spotlight on modern Maaori astronomy

27 April 2016

Matariki over Taupiri must be credited to Erica Sinclair

A new exhibition at Waikato Museum will shine a spotlight on modern Maaori astronomy and promote a better understanding of the history and meaning of Matariki.

Te Whaanau Maarama: The Heavenly Bodies, developed in partnership with the University of Waikato will open at Waikato Museum from 28 May 2016 until 13 July 2018. This ground-breaking exhibition will examine the traditional Maaori societal view of the night sky and how it is being revitalised in the modern world. 

Waikato Museum Director Cherie Meecham says the partnership between the museum and the university has combined knowledge and skill to produce an authentic, educational experience for museum visitors.

“Working with external curators brings specialist knowledge and new thinking, extending our ability to present a detailed, learned view on the specialised subject of Maaori astronomy. We have responded to that by developing an exhibition that will be an out of this world experience and a platform for discussion and learning.”

Associate Professor Rangi Matamua (Tuuhoe), Dr Hemi Whaanga (Ngaati Kahungunu, Ngaai Tahu, Ngaati Maamoe, Waitaha), Dr Ann Hardy (Aotearoa) and PhD candidate, Hohepa Tuahine (Tuuhoe, Te Arawa) from the University of Waikato Te Whare Waananga o Waikato are the curators of Te Whaanau Maarama: The Heavenly Bodies.

Te Whaanau Maarama is the result of the coming together of The University of Waikato, Waikato Museum, The Royal Society of New Zealand, the community and our research,” said Rangi Matamua.

“It’s very exciting for us to have our research and our area of passion portrayed in a gallery space.”

Te Whaanau Maarama is the family of light – the celestial bodies of te raa (sun), te marama (moon), ngaa whetuu (stars), hinaatore (phosphorous light), parikoikoi (gloomy light) and hinerauaamoa (small star). Placed in the sky by the god Taane, they have guided Maaori across the Pacific Ocean and played a pivotal role in Maaori agricultural, fishing, hunting, building – foretelling aspects of the coming seasons and weather conditions – and in ceremony, language and culture.

To acknowledge the rising of Matariki on 28 June 2016, a series of events will be held in the Te Whaanau Maarama gallery at Waikato Museum. For more information, visit

Image: Matariki over Taupiri, photograph, Erica Sinclair.

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Louise Belay
Partnerships and Communications Manager
07 838 6956
021 536 557