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Thursday, 21 February 2019 01:49 pm

Upside-down Sudanese bats and celebrating Matariki

Jul 1st, 2009 | By | Category: Featured Article, Front Page Layout, News

matariki-main1WHEN Tony Hopkins shared the story about Why Bats Hang Upside Down it wasn’t initially clear how it related to a Matariki celebration.

The story came from a 14-year-old Sudanese refugee boy who told how the bat neither fits in with the animal kingdom nor the birds with feathers, so to this day hangs upside down alone.

Mr Hopkins (right) – an expat American story-teller now working as a Te Papa host – told the story to a gathering held at Volunteer Wellington’s community house in Willis St to kick off the Maori new year celebration.

Co-manager Pauline Harper (below) said the story was about encouraging people to accept diversity: “That is what we are doing here. We are celebrating our culture as a Pacific nation.”

matariki-paulineIt was also the official launch of the second volume of Once Upon a Time…Stories about volunteers and volunteering, attended by volunteers, families and those involved in the production of the book.

The celebration had a uniquely South Pacific feel.

The crowd feasted on paua fritters, fish and chips, mulled apple juice, rewena (Maori bread) and kumara chips, while they listened to story-teller Moira Wairama share the legend of Matariki and how it came to mean “little eyes”.

One day Tawhirimatea, the god of the winds, was so outraged when Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatuanuku, the earth mother, were pushed apart by his siblings that he tore out his own eyes and threw them into the heavens.

Moira said all cultures and most ancestors celebrated this time of year, the winter solstice.

Matariki – what’s celebrated

Matariki – celebrated in May or June – is when the constellation Matariki or Pleiades rises.

Australian aboriginals call the stars the seven sisters and in Japan it is known as Subaru.

In many cultures, the rising of the Pleiades is a key indicator of seasonal change.

Early Greek seamen knew the seven-star constellation as the “sailing stars” and it has been used as a navigational beacon for sailors around the world.

For Maori, Matariki is a time of reflection, a time for people to come together and share, to plan for the future and acknowledge their tipuna.

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ABOVE, from left: Grace Sun, Geeta Nigi, Pauline Harper, Moira Wairama and Tony Hopkins.

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