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Maiangi Waitai: Ātea-ā-Rangi—Interstellar

19 June - 26 September 2021

Free entry

Image: Maiangi Waitai: Ātea-ā-Rangi—Interstellar, 2019 at The Dowse Art Museum (install view). Photo: Shaun Mathews.

Bursting with bright colours, magical symbols and cross-cultural characters, Maiangi Waitai’s art is all about exploring the mysteries of the universe.

In her newest project, Maiangi re-imagines oral history traditions related to the Matariki constellation. Creating a superhero figure for each star, complete with its own packaging, she shows us a unique way to consider some of the ideas celebrated in Aotearoa New Zealand during the Maaori New Year.

A fun, all-encompassing experience for the whole whaanau, this vibrant exhibition explores empowerment, nurturing each other, generosity, gratitude, protection of culture and the environment, working together and having a positive attitude!

Exhibition toured by: 

Interstellar writing competition

Co-hosted by Hamilton Book Month and Waikato Museum, this writing competition celebrated Matariki by asking entrants for poems and short stories in response to the visual storytelling of the Ātea-ā-Rangi—Interstellar exhibition.

The winners were announced Hamilton Book Month's open mic night on Friday 10 December 2021 (following delays due to Covid-19 lockdowns).

Over 16 Winners

  • First Place – Manawa Ora (Hope) by Jeff Taylor
  • Second Place – The Call Back to my Tupuga by De Jana Sveistrup

Under 16 Winners

  • First Place – Matariki Escape by Edward Smith
  • Second Place – The Lunch Mystery by Samantha Swan

Special Mention

  • The Void by Sukh Kaur



Manawa Ora (hope) by Jeff Taylor, age 78

The boy hangs back, reluctant, kicking at the black sand. She’s at the water’s edge in the early moonlight, still as a statue, staring out to sea. In that old nightdress with the flowers again, he notices. Strands of seaweed rope around her bare ankles in the foam.

The air reeks of her sadness, like someone has cut out her heart and run off with it.

‘Hey Aunty? You’re out here again, eh? It’s cold. The whānau want you to come in. Dad’s got some kai ready for you.’

Her tormented eyes turn towards him. ‘I’m not hungry, Rangi, and you know why I’m here.’

‘Yeah, I know,’ he sighs. ‘You’re waiting for your tanē, Tamati, to come back.’

‘Your uncle always took too many risks. No phone. No radio. No notice of the weather.’

‘But it’s been so long now. They stopped the search a week ago. Why do you still have hope?’

‘Because it’s Matariki, Rangi. Look out there. Just above the big island. See those stars? That’s my symbol of hope. That old outboard might’ve given up, but he’s got oars. Plenty of water on board. And he knows how to catch fish for food.’

‘So you really think he’ll come back, Auntie? It’s so sad, eh, but the whānau have accepted it. Everyone else understands, but they’ve given up.’

‘There’s always hope. Our tīpuna were once the world’s best ever navigators, and they only had the Southern Cross, Māhutonga, to guide them. They called it the anchor of the great sky canoe and they knew how to read the ocean swells and currents. They found their way by the stars, the moon, the sun, the clouds, the winds, and by watching birds.’

‘But some people reckon they’re just guessing about all that old Kupe history stuff, Auntie.’

 ‘I believe all of it. You see, Matariki is a mother who has the daughters, waitī and waitā. They’re twin mermaids with united powers, but waitā is the one who’ll look after him. Waitā shines and protects all life within the sea.’ She turns to him again. ‘Tamati often talked about waitā when he went fishing. So, yes Rangi. I reckon she’ll help him find his way back.’

The boy picks up a shell and tries unsuccessfully to skip it across the water. ‘Okay then Aunty. I’ll go get you some of the kai, then come back. Maybe you c’n tell me some more. These mermaids sound pretty cool. I’ll wait with you. Just for while though, eh? The All Blacks’ game’s on soon.’


The Call Back to my Tupuga by De Jana Sveistrup, age 19

“In this poem, I’m responding to the character Matariki. Learning about Māori culture has allowed me to reconnect with my Samoan culture. Being on the journey of strengthening that connection to my culture, I am grateful of my growing knowledge of Matauranga Māori that helps foster it.” – De Jana Sveistrup


Threads are broken with connections lost.

My ancestors call.

Suppressed by the words of reasoning and “logic” 

they go unnoticed.

Deaf ears empty with stories unheard.



the divine supreme.

Across oceans, her glowing starlight illuminates the path needed.

To foster the connection.

She shines her light, a beacon to my whakapapa, my tupuga.


Tagata o le Moana.

Interwoven cultures, 

connected by the vast waters our ancestors navigated 

Generations of my tupuga knew

 the whispers of the currents,

 the ciphers of the stars.


I must voyage the path that leads

back to my aiga.

To finally answer their call.


Matariki Escape by Edward Smith, age 9

I visited the interstellar Matariki exhibition this Tuesday right before lockdown.

It was very quiet.  The glistening eyes stared at me through the dark room. The colours were dazzling.

They had the whole room to themselves.  They were still as statues or were they? They were actually planning for escape until the right moment. But is magic really real?

They were about to prove that with their magical powers. To unlock great mysteries. Everybody goes to their houses. One black night they walked into the dark corridor down the steps but the doors were locked. So they flew up to the ceiling and cut a small hole in the ceiling. Just big enough to fly through the tiny gap. They flew through the alleyway and the stars shone bright in the gloomy moonlight.

They flew up into the sky until they reached space. A rocket flew past them.

Finally it is winter. They shone bright for Matariki. THE END. 


The Lunch Mystery by Samantha Swan, age 10

Once upon a time Matariki and her six sisters decided to start school. When they walked in they were greeted with other stars. Waita and Wiati found friends and soon Matariki was alone. When she went to class people were staring.

They did some math like multiplication. Soon it was lunch. They have school lunches. when she was eating. Tupa-i-nuku came up and said “my pie is half eaten”

“WHAT that is disgusting ”

“I know right i am not eating it”


That is when Matariki got an idea “I´m going to investigate”, said Matariki. Matariki stayed late after lunch and was hiding in an empty bin. When everyone had left she hopped out of the bin and looked around at the lunch lady making the next meal for tomorrow “nothing weird about that” said Matariki in her head then left. Told Tupa-i-nuku that she found nothing suspicious. Tupa-i-nuku frowned. Finally it was time to go home.           Matariki went to bed feeling bad that she didn't find how the pie was half eaten.

In the morning Matariki got ready and ran to school with her sisters. When they got to school Matariki ran to class. She hung her bag and ran to the cafeteria. To her surprise it wasn't locked. She opened the door just an inch and saw the lunch lady looking through the scrapped food from yesterday. Matariki was shocked at the sight of the lunch lady digging through the trash. She tiptoed away but knocked over a bin the lunch lady ran over and saw Matariki she said “not a word or else” Matariki ran to tell her sisters. Then the bell rang for class.

They did some reading today. They had Mr Blue. He really liked work and quiet and when it got loud he would shout, then would blame it on Matariki and her sisters then send them to the principal's office. “That's not fair” shouted Matariki 

“We did nothing” said Waita and Wiati. Soon they arrived at the principal's door. ”What are you guys doing here?” said Miss Guitry “Mr Blue sent us her for no reason again”

 “It is lunch time, go have some'' said Miss Guitry “I will also talk to your teacher.”

They left the principal’s office. “I should have the principle that the lunch lady was digging through the scrapped foods” thought Matariki.

Everybody got lunch but Matariki slowly walked to the stage. When she was on top of the stage she got everyone’s attention and then took a BIG breath and shouted “THE LUNCH LADY DIGS THROUGH THE TRASH AND PUTS IT IN THE MEALS YOU ARE EATING NOW!”

“AHHHH” shouted the school then the principal walked in and said “what's going on in here?”

“The lunch lady was digging through the trash when I came down. I thought I forgot something” said Matariki. “Is that true Miss Morgan?” said the principle

“It is ok I am sorry please don’t fire me”

''I have no choice you are fired”. They never had school lunches again for that term. The end.


The Void by Sukh Kaur, age 15 

View poem / illustration here