Celebrating Puanga 2022 at Parihaka: 'We could feel the strength of each other'
From Taranaki Daily News, 11th June 2022.
Parihaka kaitiaki Maata Wharehoka believes things always seem to work out when they gather to see the Puanga star rise from the tip of Taranaki Maunga.
She was proven right again just before sunrise on Saturday as the bad weather that had battered the region and most of the country calmed as young and old gathered to celebrate.
“It was just fabulous and such a spiritual event,” she said. “We wanted to have peace in the heavens at that time.”
While many regions around the country celebrate the Māori New Year with Matariki, in Taranaki the star Matariki is not visible.
So celebrations are anchored around Puanga, the brightest star that can be seen above the three stars of Tautoru (Orion’s Belt).
The dawn vigil starts Parihaka Puanga Kai Rau Festival which celebrates culture, being spiritual and with a focus on education, gardening and the arts.
While close to 100 gathered for Puanga, many more came through Parihaka’s gates on Saturday to share kai, harvest yams, tender gardens and speak of the importance of the day.
Taranaki iwi had been celebrating Puanga for centuries while the festival was in its ninth year.
It annually attracts visitors from throughout New Zealand and Saturday’s event was no different.
Kristie Parata and Megan Te Punga Summerville travelled north from Waikanae and Wellington to better understand the festival and relate some of their learnings to their work at Mahi Mō Te Taiao – The Waikanae Jobs for Nature project.
“We are trying to base our mahi around our Māori lunar calendar and given this year is the first public holiday for Matariki we thought we should upskill our knowledge,” Parata said.
“Because we affiliate our whakapapa back to Taranaki, we always find if we want to know how to do things we come back to find out. We hoped it would help us be invigorated to take our own sense of Puanga back to Waikanae.”
Te Punga Summerville described the morning’s vigil as being about the past and the present while she was particularly taken with the beat of the poi manu as Puanga presented itself.
“It’s very filling,” she said. “That pre-dawn time is a very special time, we could feel the strength of each other as we sheltered together.”
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Puanga Kai Rau