New Zealand Post is pulling out the stops to celebrate Matariki (the Māori New Year) - with a special stamp and coin issue and some major public events in Auckland and Wellington.
Matariki celebrates the return to the skies of the cluster of stars known as the Pleiades – with Matariki being the Māori name for the brightest star in that group. Matariki is widely acknowledged to signal a change of seasons, and traditionally the manner in which these stars return to the skies (which occurs on 10 June this year) signals how successful the season’s crops will be.
These days Matariki is celebrated around the country – and across the world - with festivals showcasing all aspects of Māori culture, art and entertainment.
New Zealand Post's head of community engagement, Nicola Airey, says Māori have played a key role in the development of New Zealand Post throughout its 173 year history – and Matariki is a chance to celebrate Māori and their unique culture.
"In Wellington we’re sponsoring the New Zealand Post Kaumātua Kapa Haka, which happens on the weekend of the 29th and 30th of June at Te Papa as part of their Matariki Festival," Nicola Airey explains.
"The New Zealand Post Kaumātua Kapa Haka is set to be a stunning event, with some of this nation's most revered Māori entertainers performing waiata and haka. It really looks set to showcase the very best in Kapa Haka, and is on track to be a deeply moving experience, celebrating the richness and depth of Māori culture."
Aucklanders can also join in the festivities, with the annual New Zealand Post Manu Aute Kite Day on Saturday 20 July.
"It's the signature event of Auckland Council’s Matariki Festival, which we also sponsor. As well as spectacular kite displays, people can have a go at making their own kites, or take in kapa haka and story-telling events during the day," Nicola Airey said.
People elsewhere in the country, and the world, haven’t been forgotten – with New Zealand Post issuing a special set of Matariki stamps incorporating one of the most iconic symbols of Māoridom, the koru, alongside aspects of traditional Māori culture that have particular significance during the time of Matariki.
"The koru is derived from the shape of silver fern fronds as they emerge, and that sits nicely with the concept of Matariki as a time of new beginnings, like the Māori New Year.
We're really delighted with how the 2013 Matariki stamps have come out, making them a worthy tribute to this most New Zealand of festivals," Simon Allison, stamps spokesman for New Zealand Post says.
"We've got six stamps in the set – two valued at 70c plus $1.40, $1.90, $2.40 and $2.90 designs. They come individually, on first day covers in two designs, or as a miniature sheet – which is the only way you can obtain these stamps in a gummed format," Simon Allison said.
The Matariki 2013 – Koru stamps go on sale from 5 June.
The koru theme follows over to the 2013 Māori Art Coin – Koru, which celebrates the koru as an integral part of Māori art and culture.
The third in an annual series, the 1oz silver coin features an unfurling silver fern frond surrounded by artwork representing the domain of Tāne Mahuta, the God of the Forest.
A 1oz gold proof coin was also produced, but the limited run of just 250 coins worldwide has already sold out through online pre-orders.
The 1oz silver proof coin, which is available for pre-order, will be released in New Zealand Post stores from mid-June - with only 2,000 available worldwide.