Performing to an appreciative home crowd, Professor Rangi Matamua shared his extensive knowledge of Māori astronomy and how we can all live by the stars at a talk at Te Takeretanga o Kura-hau-pō on Thursday, July 16.
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Professor Matamua was born and raised in Levin and is a fifth generation in a long line of Māori astronomers.
Professor Matamua holds extensive knowledge about the night skies, star clusters, galaxies and planets and is on a mission to disseminate star lore left to him by his tīpuna Te Kōkau and Rāwiri Te Kōkau through a 400-page manuscript written in te reo on Māori Astronomy gifted to him by his grandfather Timi Rāwiri Matamua (James Moses) when they lived at 16 Rata Rd, in Levin.
He said he was inspired to further his studies of indigenous astronomy and share that knowledge after his grandfather told him "knowledge that isn't shared isn't knowledge".
Professor Matamua, currently lecturing at the University of Waikato, treated the audience to his memories of living in Levin, attending Taitoko School which he said was the best.
"Levin East School was for softies."
Some of his fellow pupils were in the audience. He recalled when the library used to be where Woolworths was and before that McKenzies.
The large crowd were told the stories and myths behind Matariki and the nine stars that make up the Pleiades cluster which is seen in the southern hemisphere in the month of Pipiri (around June and July).
Professor Matamua said Māori believe the appearance of Matariki in the morning sky in mid-winter marks the Māori New Year or Te Mātahi o te Tau. The arrival of Matariki is a sign for people to gather, honour the dead, celebrate the present and plan for the future.
Māori believe when Matariki gathers in the sky, it calls people together on earth.
He explained that his Māori ancestors read the patterns of the sun, moon and stars to measure day, month and season.
Meticulous observations of the movements of the stars and planets, the changing position of the sun, the phases of the moon and the appearance of anomalies such as comets and meteors were recorded and handed down from generation to generation as part of Māori oral tradition.
This knowledge was connected to seasonal activities such as planting and harvesting, the flowering of plants, the spawning of fish and the natural cycles of the environment. He urged everyone to join the renaissance of the regeneration of Matariki and hold their own celebrations.
Professor Matamua launched his new documentary Living by the stars which premiered on Māori Television on Thursday, July 16 and is evailable On Demand: https://www.maoritelevision.com/shows/beyond-matariki
He shared the first part with the audience and said he was most proud of it, and wanted to launch it in his home town.
"I've been all over the world to study the night sky but no place is as beautiful as here in Levin."
Passionate about sharing his knowledge, many resources about Matariki and living by the stars are available free of charge from his website: livingbythestars.co.nz and from Te Wānanga o Aotearoa
Te Wānanga o Aotearoa
Māori Television trailer