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Featherston looks to the night sky

Wairarapa Moana Matariki. PHOTO/PETE MONK

Featherston will celebrate Matariki today with late-night shopping, a night market, food trucks, live music, storytelling, a star hunt for kiddies, and more.

Celebrations will continue in Featherston well into the weekend.

Jennifer Grey, chairwoman of the Wairarapa Gateway Business Group and owner of bookshop ‘For the Love of Books’ is one of the many organisers of today’s celebration.

“We hope lots of people will come along and join in the community spirit,” she said.

The fun starts at 3pm today with the “star hunt” across town as children compete to find the nine Matariki stars.

Nine participating businesses will each have a star onsite, and children can take the complete set to the town square to collect a prize.

The Featherston Matariki Evening Festival will kick off at 5pm with a night market offering local produce, crafts, food trucks, and more.

There will be entertainment throughout the night with astrophysicist Dr Pauline Harris and storyteller Ra Smith, both of Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, talking about the stars.

There will also be live music, Mini Fell Train Rides and the Featherston Heritage Museum, and Fell Locomotive Museum will be open. Stargazing telescopes will be available.

On Sunday, New Zealand children’s illustrator and author Vasanti Unka [pictured] will be in Featherston for a Matariki-inspired event for children and their whanau.

The event is called Glittering Galaxies and Unka will read from her new book “I Am the Universe”. Accompanying star-themed images will be projected onto a screen during the reading.

The free reading is being jointly organised by Featherston Booktown and The Chicken and Frog Bookshop in Featherston.

Booktown operations manager Mary Biggs said the starry event was a good fit with Matariki.

The Sunday event will be in Featherston’s Kiwi Hall in a black gazebo, lit with fairy lights and hung with planet mobiles.

After the reading, there will be craft activity where children can make a postcard using scratchy design cards and write a message to a child somewhere else in the universe.

Featherston Booktown will post the cards to other Booktowns in Australia, Scotland and Sweden. The hope is children in those places will write back.

Unka will be in conversation with Joanna Ludbrook, the owner and curator of the Chicken and Frog Bookshop in Featherston.

The free event is funded with the help of South Wairarapa Rotary.

After the reading and craftwork, there will be a Taonga Puoro concert. Warren Maxwell of Pae tu Mokai o Tauira, Al Fraser and Ariana Tikao will play their instruments, tell Matariki-inspired stories and encourage questions and discussion about Matariki.

This event is at the Kiwi Hall, 62 Bell St, Featherston on Sunday, July 11, from noon to 2pm.

Matariki at Wairarapa Moana

More than 50 people braved the midwinter chill on Sunday to head to Wairarapa Moana and celebrate Matariki, the Maori New Year.

The pre-dawn ceremony was organised by Jack Sheppard and Sophronia Smith of Featherston community group Fab Feathy, along with Papawai Marae in Greytown, Hau Ariki Marae in Martinborough, Featherston Community Board, and the Martinborough Community Board.

Herewini and Paora Ammunson from Papawai Marae led the Matariki ceremony.

Afterwards, the group headed to Hau Ariki Marae in Martinborough for breakfast.

Mark Shepherd, Featherston Community Board chairman and a member of the steering committee of Fab Feathy, said the event was “awesome”.

“It was very cold, but that didn’t bother anyone.”

Shepherd said the morning fog cleared, which left the Matariki star constellation easily visible in the early morning sky.

For Maori, the appearance of Matariki in the morning sky in midwinter marks the Maori New Year, or Te Matahi o te Tau.

The traditional ceremony at Wairarapa Moana included viewing Matariki in the sky, remembering those who passed since Matariki was last seen and a ceremony known as ‘Feeding the stars’.

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