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Qiane Matata-Sipu reading Ngā Kupenga a Nanny Rina with her daughter.

Photo/ Supplied


Qiane Matata-Sipu on her new book and why Matariki is for everyone

A new heartwarming children's book by award-winning Māori-Pacific author Qiane Matata-Sipu will help families pass down traditional knowledge and welcome in the new year.

As Matariki becomes more visible in the skies of Aotearoa, a book that teaches children to understand the season has recently been released.

Qiane Matata-Sipu (Cook Island / Māori) has just published Ngā Kupenga a Nanny Rina (Nanny Rina's Amazing Nets) in both te reo Māori and English, which she says can be a way for families to help their children to better connect with the meaning behind the season, which will be recognised in an upcoming public holiday next Friday.

She told William Terite on Pacific Mornings, that it’s a story close to her heart because the main character is her daughter Haeata te Kapua and the nanny is a reflection of several women in her family.

“We’re looking at it from mātauranga o te wahine, so looking at women's knowledge,” she said

“That knowledge of weaving and what weaving nets mean in relation to Matariki, where the different stars of Matariki connect to the parts of our environment, where you get food and what kind of nets you weave to get that food and then of course how you then use that food to celebrate and acknowledge this time of the year.”

Qiane Matata-Sipu with her recently published book Ngā Kupenga a Nanny Rina (Nanny Rina's Amazing Nets). Photo/ Supplied

Matariki is an abbreviation of Ngā Mata o te Ariki Tāwhirimātea (The eyes of the god Tāwhirimātea) and refers to a large cluster of stars, known in some European traditions as the Pleiades.

Kai is a key part of Matariki and different types of food are symbolised by the stars Tipuānuku (harvested), Tipuārangi (above ground), Waitī (freshwater), and Waitā (salt water).

They are cooked in an earth oven called te umu kohukohu whētu. The steam from this cooking, called Hautapu is a sacred offering to Matariki.

In the book, Haeata te Kapua asks Nanny Rina what special creation she will weave to welcome the new year.

Nanny shows her how the Matariki stars help her choose the right net to make for gathering food.

Qiane Matata-Sipu said the book isn’t just for Māori, but for all children, especially Pacific children because of our ancestral connections.

“We can all relate to those concepts no matter where we are from and I think it’s really special for us across Te Moana Nui a Kiwa (Pacific Ocean) because [while] we call it Matariki here and in the Cook Islands, in Hawai’i they call it Makaliki, in Niue and Tonga it's Mataliki and Tahiti its Makari’i.

“This is a time in our year when our Pacific and Polynesian ancestors would have all acknowledged this particular star constellation.”

Ngā Kupenga a Nanny Rina, is a picture book published in both Te Reo Māori and English and it also includes step-by-step instructions to weave a net.

The book is available from bookstores nationwide or from Matata-Sipu’s NUKU website.

Watch the full interview with Qiane Matata-Sipu below: