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Matariki 2023 | Three artists respond

As Dr Rangiānehu Mātāmua beautifully put it: Matariki “belongs to all of us”. It means something different to all of us, too. To celebrate this special holiday, we asked three of our Arts Foundation artists – a writer, an illustrator and a photographer – to share their own creative response. Read on to see what they came up with! Mānawatia o Matariki whānau!

ARTIST: Tia Barrett
IWI: Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Mamoe, Te Rapuwai, Waitaha, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Tamainupō
DISCIPLINE: Te Ao Māori lens-based practice
AWARDS: 2023 Springboard recipient

'Āke Tuna Atu', 2023, Photograph.

"‘Āke tuna atu’ is an artwork that celebrates the celestial and physical presence of Waitī, one of the stars of Matariki, and explores its profound connection to freshwater and the importance of preserving the precious tuna habitats in the Aotearoa rivers. My artwork consists of multiple layers of stills captured from moving image expressing whakapapa to ngā tuna and Waitī. ‘Āke tuna atu’ also considers the transformative nature of our digital environment to help add another creative layer of kaipūrākau."


ARTIST: Damien Wilkins
AWARDS: Arts Foundation Laureate 2013, Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship 2008

Damien Wilkins is a writer of fiction, short stories and poetry. With Matariki as a prompt, he penned us a beautiful short story – where a (gently intoxicated) narrator annoys their sister and contemplates family history – all from the serene setting of an annual golf club fundraiser…



ARTIST: Vasanti Unka
DISCIPLINE: Illustrator
AWARDS: 2021 Arts Foundation Laureate

"I grew up in rural Aotearoa. There, where night is a true black, I was mesmerised by stars – made brighter by darkness. The Matariki cluster appearing in winter without fail. Winter, when our Mum made a huge pot of gosht (think curried lamb in thick gravy). Our family was so big she would add kumara, potatoes, carrots and watercress or puha to make it go further – just like your boil-up but with a fusion of spices. Cardamom, cinamon, cumin, turmeric, cloves and so many more. Last winter, Mum passed away. Yet I know she is present – like the Matariki stars that never fade – always with us – the past and the future – the gathering of family sharing a good pot of gosht."