The Matariki 2012 stamp issue pays tribute to Maori rock art - a unique art form that gives fascinating insights into the earliest people of Aotearoa.
Matariki is celebrated throughout New Zealand, but in the south, Puaka (Rigel, part of the Orion constellation) appears in the sky at the same time as Matariki, and is widely acknowledged.
Maori rock art is visible throughout the country and the stamps in this issue depict examples of rock art documented in Te Waipounamu (the South Island) where more than 500 sites have been recorded to date.
Rock art is applied to a variety of stone types, and while the common perception is that rock art was created using a burnt stick, the majority of the 'drawings' in Te Waipounamu appear to have been applied as pigment in solution. The style of Maori rock art is similar to that from wider Polynesia, suggesting that it was a practice brought to New Zealand by its earliest people.
Maori rock art gives a glimpse of New Zealand's history and culture, and the drawings included on the six self-adhesive stamps in this issue portray animals now long extinct, representations of everyday life and depictions of the supernatural.
The rauru (spiral design) on the stamps pays respect to Rangi and Papa, and the light and knowledge that came about from their separation. The colours used in the rauru reflect the land and environment, and the koru represent growth and life and pay respect to the past, present and future.