When the star cluster known as Matariki appears in the night sky it signals the Maori New Year and a time of new beginnings. The Matariki 2013 stamp issue by New Zealand Post celebrates the koru - a pattern symbolising new life and regeneration.
Matariki is a significant event for Maori, and is widely acknowledged to signal a change of seasons. In traditional Maori society, Matariki was believed to foretell whether the year ahead would be plentiful. It was also a time of festivity, when communities would come together to reflect on the past and look ahead to new beginnings.
The message of new beginnings is represented in the koru pattern, which is derived from an unfurling silver fern frond. Each of the six self-adhesive stamps in this issue incorporates the koru pattern along with aspects of traditional Maori culture that have particular significance during the time of Matariki.
70c – Piko: the koru pattern is used in many Māori and New Zealand art forms and symbolises new life, regeneration, growth, strength and peace. For many this form is the symbol of renewal and of hope for the future. In this stamp the piko is blooming and will grow into a rauponga (fern leaf). The artwork surrounding the fern represents the domain of TaneMahuta - the God of the Forest.
70c - Manu Tukutuku: sometimes the koru can be used in a non-literal way to symbolise aspects of Maoridom, and is often seen in carving and ta moko (tattooing). In this stamp the koru pattern symbolises the winds of Tawhirimatea (the God of the Weather), and soaring on those winds is a kite, or a messenger between Heaven and Earth. In the background the sunrise depicts the first day of Matariki, and the sky - the domain of Tawhirimatea.
$1.40 – Nguru: the pattern that covers the nguru (flute) in this stamp is made from a series of koru shapes that depict the music making pleasing shapes in the silence. In the background is the face of Hine Raukatauri, the Goddess of Flute Music, who loved her nguru so much that she decided to live in it forever.
$1.90 – Pataka: this stamp design talks about Matariki as a time of abundance, feasting and the opportunity to flourish. The pataka, or storehouse, is covered in koru, and represents the concept of planting and storing kai (food), the gathering of kai, and nourishment and wellbeing. This is the domain of Rongo-ma-Tane, the God of Kumara and Cultivated Food.
$2.40 – Kotiate: the mangopare design seen swirling around the kotiate (club) is a traditional Maori interpretation of a hammerhead shark, featuring symmetrical koru as the distinctive head. It symbolises strength, determination and an unwillingness to yield.
It is very much the warrior symbol, and speaks of the attributes that a warrior must possess. The kotiate and mangopare together represent the domain of Tumatauenga, the God of War and Balance.
$2.90 –Patiki: The patiki (flounder) design, with its swirling koru inside the shape of the patiki, is used in many carvings - particularly in pataka and waka (canoes). It is the symbol of hospitality, and can represent the catching of fish from the domain of Tangaroa, the God of the Ocean.