Lots to do for Matariki in Auckland

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The sky's the limit at this year's Matariki Festival in Auckland.

When the Pleiades star cluster rises into the sky above Aotearoa, it signals the start of the country's biggest celebration of indigenous people and culture - Matariki, or Maori New Year.

With 31 days and nights of events, Auckland Council's Matariki Festival (28 June - 28 July) is a New Year's celebration for everyone.

This year's activities include live music, film, theatre, visual arts, kite flying, walks, star-gazing and food demonstrations by MasterChef winners Kasey and Karena Bird. The majority of Matariki events are free to attend and they take place across Auckland.

An unforgettable dawn experience at The Cloud on Auckland's waterfront heralds the start of Matariki on Saturday 28 June. From the mezzanine floor people can witness the rise of the Matariki star cluster over the iconic peak of Rangitoto.

A light show then accompanies a taonga puoro performance (traditional Maori musical instruments) which is followed by a moving karakia (blessing).

Guests are invited to enjoy a free breakfast at the Stardome.

Kapa haka - it's powerful, dynamic and the competition is fierce. The 2degrees Kapa Haka Super 12s gives audiences the opportunity to witness the best kapa haka groups in the country competing to take home $12,000 in prize money.

The performers wow the crowds and judges with their incredible choreographed routines which include waiata, dance, haka and poi. The event takes place at The Cloud, Queen's Wharf, on 12 July. There's also a marketplace of authentic Maori art and craft and food stalls, serving traditional kai, on site.

Grab whanau and friends for the Manu Aute Kite Day on Saturday 26 July at Takaparawha Reserve, Orakei. Flying traditional M?ori kites (manu aute) provides a symbolic connection from heaven to earth - between the individual and Matariki.

People of all ages are invited to bring their kites along or make their own on the day - the Orakei Marae will become a mini-festival of weaving and kite making workshops.

There will be kids' activities, performances, craft stalls and kai, including a lunchtime hangi. Kite aficionados can enter the Manu Aute competition and attend a Manu Aute Traditional Workshop at the Orakei Community Centre, on 5 July.

A new addition to the Matariki programme this year is a festival-within-a-festival called Matariki on the Move which comprises a series of special events at venues across the region.

They sliced, sautéed and sous-vied their way to MasterChef victory, becoming New Zealand's first winning duo.

Now culinary queens Kasey and Karena Bird share their inspired take on classic recipes and whanau favourites at a special event, Matariki on the Move: Wananga a Kai. The Maketu maestros are going to demonstrate some of their favourite recipes, cooking tips and give guests a taste of their delicious fare at Mahurehure Marae in Point Chevalier on 19 July and at Manurewa Marae on 20 July.

Matariki on the Move kicks off with a series of free concerts by the much-loved Modern Maori Quartet.

The suave and sharply-dressed crooners have impressed audiences the country over with their humour, charm and magnificent harmonies. They will perform free concerts from June 28 to July 2 at five locations from Wellsford to Manurewa.

The stunning chanteuse Maisey Rika. The award-winning singer/songwriter performs four free concerts from July 9 to 12 at venues from Orewa to Pukekohe.

Please visit www.matarikifestival.org.nz for details.

Matariki on the Move also brings audiences a hilarious new immersive theatre experience by Kiwi playwright Erina Daniels. Party with the Aunties is set at Uncle Angus' 50th birthday celebrations. Angus has reached "the residential speed limit", so Aunties Maria and Kahu throw him a bash like no other. This biting snap shot of true-blue New Zealand is brought to life with music, dance, narrative...and sausages.

Arts, Culture and Events Chair Cr Alf Filipaina says Matariki Festival '14 is a time share kai, rituals, entertainment, hospitality and knowledge.

"Auckland Council's Matariki Festival grew out of a vision to reclaim, commemorate and promote the celebration of Matariki as a way to acknowledge Aotearoa's unique Maori heritage. We are proud to support this deeply significant event on our cultural calendar," he says.

The full Matariki '14 programme delivers more than 60 individual events, exhibitions or workshops. Full details can be found at www.matarikifestival.org.nz

- THE AUCKLANDER

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