Māori astronomer Victoria Campbell on what Matariki symbolises

The wonder of the night skies guides Māori astronomer Victoria Campbell.

The Ngāi Tahu uri is a passionate practitioner and expert in the field of tātai arorangi, or Māori astronomy.  

"I never would have imagined that I would be able to understand my location in the world by using mātauraka Māori [knowledge] and looking up and seeing where the whetū are to be able to locate myself in the world," Campbell told The Hui.

Campbell's journey started after attending a wānanga with renowned Māori astronomer Rangi Mātāmua 12 years ago.

Since then, she's seen the renaissance of tātai arorangi through Matariki, the cluster of stars that mark the Māori New Year.

"I would think of astronomy as one of our cornerstones of mātauraka, so it's like a foundation stone. It's embedded in everything, it's connected through that lens of whakapapa," Campbell said.

After years of studying, teaching, and practising tātai arorangi, Campbell has become a leading source for this mātauranga.

She was part of the Matariki Advisory Group to help set up the public holiday - something she was proud to be a part of.

Victoria Campbell.
Victoria Campbell. Photo credit: The Hui

"I shed a tear. I was so proud of where we've got to as a nation for that movement to be happening," Campbell said.

"For me, the real kind of gem in the public holiday is what it symbolises for iwi and that our mātauraka is being recognised and valued."

But as this kaupapa becomes more public, is there a risk of this mātauranga losing its integrity?

"So if people are mass-producing plastic things that are going to end up in our oceans printed with Matariki, that does not align with the values and principles of Matariki," Campbell said.

"So as communities, we should be not supporting those businesses and calling them out."

Campbell hopes Matariki will drive an appreciation of our whetū and the mātauranga behind them.

"They need to be valued and that it is a privilege that we are able to see such beauty from Aotearoa."

Made with support from Te Māngai Pāho and the Public Interest Journalism Fund.