Exhibition stars Māori cosmology

A "tying together of canoes" will take place today when Tūhura Otago Museum launches Dunedin’s 2024 Puaka Matariki Festival alongside the opening of the new Waka Whetū exhibition.

Waka Whetū is an interactive, multidisciplinary showcase created in collaboration with Otago Polytechnic’s School of Design and the museum.

Designed by third-year communication design students, the exhibition aims to raise awareness of Matariki’s significance, and features a variety of design media, educational interactive experiences, and short films that explore the meaning and importance of the Matariki star cluster.

Museum exhibitions and creative services head Craig Scott was delighted with the polytechnic students’ "impressive" work.

The exhibition is designed using a whakapapa-centred approach, ensuring the storytelling and visuals are deeply rooted in Māori ancestral connections.

Otago Polytechnic third-year design and communication student Timothy Still, 24, hangs a star in...
Otago Polytechnic third-year design and communication student Timothy Still, 24, hangs a star in the Waka Whetū exhibition at Tūhura Otago Museum, as part of Dunedin’s 2024 Puaka Matariki Festival. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Each star’s story reflects its significance in Māori cosmology, with activities, installations, visuals, and narration honouring Māori culture.

The project was developed in collaboration with Kāi Tahu astronomer and Te Pūnaha Hihiko Vision Mātauranga researcher Victoria Campbell, ensuring authenticity and respect throughout the exhibition.

The exhibition will be opened today, alongside a celebration of Te Tau Hou Māori — the Māori New Year — from 5.30pm, when there will be speeches, performances, and kai.

Tūhura Otago Museum director Ian Griffin said the museum’s commitment to Matariki was one of its most important annual events.

"This year, manawhenua are hosting the national Matariki ceremony up near Wānaka, so we won’t have the annual dawn Matariki Ahuka Nui ceremony on the Museum Reserve that we’ve had in previous years.

"However, we’re thrilled to instead offer this unique exhibition to the public, celebrating the polytechnic project."