A special time of year is nearly upon us with Matariki 2019 just around the corner, and as this month draws to a close there is plenty on to help the Rotorua community celebrate.
Matariki is the Māori name for the star cluster known as Pleiades. When Matariki reappears in our dawn skies it heralds the start of Te Tau Hou Māori – the Māori New Year.
This year, Matariki will reappear from June 25 to 28.
Guest tā moko artists leaving their mark on visitors, a series of lectures, degustation dinners and a new exhibition highlighting tā moko are all on offer as Te Puia | New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute marks Matariki.
It has a range of activities and celebrations planned from June 24 to June 28 to coincide with the beginning of Matariki, or the Māori New Year.
Traditionally Matariki is a time of reflection, renewal and celebration, and is widely seen as a time to gather with family and friends to reflect on the past, celebrate the present, and plan for the future.
It also marks a year since Te Whare Toto Ariki, NZMACI's new tā moko studio, opened and resident artist Jacob Tautari is looking forward to transforming the studio into one of tutoring and collaboration with the five guest artists over the week.
Guest tā moko artists Anikaaro Harawira, Tyler Jade, Hirini Katene, Heemi Te Peeti and Tristian Marler were approached because of their diverse skill sets and their shared passion for the wider growth of tā moko in New Zealand.
Tā moko from both the resident artists and the guest artists will be available.
"There is a whole new generation of budding artists to inspire and having the guest artists here to share their insights and learnings will be encouraging for everyone," Jacob says.
As part of the events, Āhua Gallery will present its latest exhibition Turou Hawaiki, which highlights the creative essence maintained within the artist and expressed through the works they create.
It also acknowledges the genealogical connection to the ancestral gifts of tā moko and the creative seed planted within Māori DNA.
Āhua Gallery curator, Kylie Tiuka says this exhibition opens within the season of Matariki and as such is an opportunity to celebrate the diverse skill set of the modern-day tā moko artist.
"Matariki is the perfect opportunity for everyone, especially Rotorua locals, to come together and experience the line-up of activities we have on offer."
Alongside the tā moko lectures, Matariki lecturers Dr Reuben Collier, Tui Ransfield, Chris Winitana, Michelle Tibble and Jade Kameta will host daily lectures on topics such as Mātauranga Māori and Maramataka.
People are encouraged to bring their whole whānau as there is something for everyone, with tamariki events such as weaving, string games and kapa haka on offer, as well as a special seven-course degustation dinner in the Pataka Kai restaurant.
The Rotorua Library is also holding a free event - Te Reo Wainene ō Tua: Sweet Stories of Yesteryear - on June 28. There are three sessions at 9.30am, 11am, and 1pm.
Rotorua Library kaiurungi matauranga Māori Anahera Sadler says the event is a storytelling experience that will excite, enthral and leave a lasting impression on people and their senses.
She says as an oral culture, storytelling in te reo Māori is an important facet of embedding cultural knowledge and information from one generation to the next.
"Te Reo Wainene ō Tua pays homage to this art of storytelling with three captivating storytellers revitalising pūrākau (Māori storytelling) to activate imaginations and imbue the hearts and minds of Rotorua children, and those young at heart with a love of storytelling and Te Reo Māori."
Anahera says this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for members of the public to see the art form of oral Māori storytelling in full flight and be entertained alongside the children of Rotorua.
"As oral storytelling is performance-based, everyone can join in as the storytellers are skilled at conveying their message even if your understanding is minimal.
"This is a great way of paying homage to Rotorua Reo Rua and picking up expressions and words in te reo.
"It is important to celebrate our history and Matariki in the community as this enables all members of the community to gain a deeper appreciation of the rich cultural history of Rotorua, the place of the mana whenua of Te Arawa within this, and how the Rotorua community can lead the way in terms of paying homage to Matariki and in turn moving forward with a growing sense of kotahitanga (unity).
"Matariki creates a platform for important conversations in intercultural awareness to grow and blossom and as Aotearoa's first bilingual city, this is vital to our Rotorua identity."
Rotorua Museum, in conjunction with Plunket Rotorua, are hosting a free information morning about wahakura - traditional woven flax bassinet for young babies.
It is on June 29, 10am, at the Te Rūnanga Tea House in Government Gardens.
Wahakura are presently being distributed as a safe infant sleeping device among New Zealand Māori, and offer a safer alternative to direct bed-sharing.
Information and advice will be on hand from Plunket Rotorua and expert weavers will be demonstrating the process of weaving wahakura throughout the morning.
Rotorua Museum events and engagement co-ordinator Tori Williams says it will be great to have weavers at the event who will show how wahakura are made and share the kaupapa behind the methods.
"They will be able to assist any people that are keen to learn how to create their own."
On June 30 Ngā Kai a Matariki (The Foods of Matariki) Competition will be held at the Rotorua Farmers Market from 10am.
Rotorua hotels and caterers will compete to create bite-sized canapes using indigenous ingredients in a contemporary way.
Community judges will taste the dishes and vote for their favourite.