ZB

'This is us': Stacey Morrison on how to celebrate Matariki respectfully

Author
Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 24 Jun 2022, 9:46am
Broadcaster Stacey Morrison explains that the values underpinning Matariki are universal. Photo / NZME
Broadcaster Stacey Morrison explains that the values underpinning Matariki are universal. Photo / NZME

'This is us': Stacey Morrison on how to celebrate Matariki respectfully

Author
Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 24 Jun 2022, 9:46am

The celebration of Matariki is open to all New Zealanders, regardless of ethnic or cultural background.

Speaking to the Front Page podcast, author and host of the Flava Breakfast show Stacey Morrison says the message is universal.

"The values of Matariki are very much in tune with our environment," says Morrison.

"It asks us to be grateful for the crops we've been enjoying and to be mindful of the winds and of the water supply. All of those things are relevant and universal to everybody."

Celebrations of the day are often centred on food and togetherness, with a strong focus on gratitude.

Morrison also notes that the celebration of the return of the Matariki constellation in the winter night sky serves as a reminder of our place in the world.

"It's entirely in tune with our environment in New Zealand. It comes from here, so it's for us and our environment.

"It is not out of step, in the way that Christmas is sometimes portrayed in the Northern Hemisphere as being part of a snowy environment when it's not like that here. Whereas, this is our winter and our winter sky to celebrate."

Morrison says this isn't about replacing one tradition with another or removing focus from days that are important to other New Zealanders. It's rather about appreciating and celebrating something that has always been woven into the history of New Zealand.

"When we consider all knowledge, what knowledge have we left behind? What knowledge have we centred? And what knowledge can we actually all engage in and be richer for it? It's not about replacement. It's actually about engaging in the opportunities that we have… I think there's a humanity that all of us can relate to."

Thankfulness is central to the Matariki celebration, but Morrison doesn't align with former National MP Paula Bennett's suggestion that the public holiday should become the New Zealand equivalent of Thanksgiving.

"I understand that inherent in Matariki is an appreciation of the crops that we get to enjoy and of the environment we live in," Morrison says.

"But what I can't relate to at all is Thanksgiving as a reference, because it is not a day of celebration for indigenous people of America. It's a day of mourning, in fact, for Native Americans. So I understand the appreciativeness, but Thanksgiving doesn't speak to me at all."

The meaning and the story of Matariki are also strong enough to stand alone, with Morrison saying that we don't need to lean on any other cultures for validation.

"We don't need to look to America to tell us what to do. Maybe this is part of our maturity as well. It's about [saying]: 'This is us'.

"It's only from us and that is all it needs to be validated."

On the topic of what the day should and shouldn't represent, the Matariki Advisory Group did express some concern about the seeping impact of commercialisation.

Morrison says that this doesn't mean businesses should steer away from raising awareness about the event but they should consider carefully how they go about it.

"If you do nothing for Matariki or Māori events for the rest of the year, and then on Friday go: 'It's Matariki today' – which would be factually incorrect – and then say "We've got stuff for $29.99", then that's where you can hear the commercialism creeping in."

Morrison says a better way to go about it would be to have commercial activities focused on things like food, feasts and family coming together. Morrison says that adverts and company messages can actually add to the day if they take care to reflect the compassion and respect implicit in Matariki.

"The problems come in when it's commercialism without care or if it doesn't reflect how the company rolls every other day of the year," Morrison says.

- Damien Venuto, NZ Herald