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Meet the artist behind our Matariki creative in-centre

Matariki, the name of the Pleiades star cluster and a significant celebration in Māori culture, marks the beginning of the new year with the first rising in late June or early July. The midwinter rising is traditionally a time of transition and reflection for many Māori people, with families coming together to remember the past and prepare for the future.

To mark Matariki on 28 June, multi-disciplinary artist Tristan Marler (aka Manawa Tapu) has created a meaningful piece that celebrates the occasion. Being of Te Rarawa/Te Aupouri descent, Tristan draws on his rich cultural heritage through his painting and printmaking practices, seeking to honour the past and explore the future of Toi Māori (traditional Māori art). We met with Tristan to learn what Matariki means to him and his whānau (family), and the meaning behind his artwork.

What does Matariki mean to you and your family?

Matariki for my whānau is about learning more about our culture and connecting with each other.

How will you be marking Matariki this year?

This year I want to celebrate Matariki at dawn, preparing food in a hāngi (a traditional Māori way of cooking in a pit oven) the evening before, reflecting on the past year and talking about our hopes and aspirations for the year to come.

Can you talk us through the work you have created for Westfield and what the different elements represent?

I wanted to create a design to represent Te-Iwa-o-Matariki (the nine of Matariki) who are all Atua (gods), with each star being associated with part of our environment.

In the middle is Matariki, the mother of the other stars and represents connection, coming together as a family and as communities. To her right are the sisters Pōhutukawa and Hiwa-i-te-Rangi. Pōhutukawa is associated with death and reflecting and remembering loved ones who have passed on. Hiwa-i-te-Rangi is associated with life, hopes and dreams.

The figures to the right are Tupu-a-Rangi (male), associated with food gathered above the ground (birds etc) and Tupu-a-nuku (female), associated with food (Kumara) gathered below the ground.

To the left of Matariki are Waitī (fresh water and the food gathered from lakes and rivers), and Waitā (salt water and food gathered from within). The Ātua associated with food gathering also encourage us to be respectful of the environment and take care not to damage it further.

To the far left are Waipuna-a-Rangi, associated with rain, hail and snow, and Ururangi, associated with wind, clouds and storms.

You are trained in Whakairo Rākau (traditional wood carving) - can you tell us which other techniques you explore as a multi-disciplinary artist, and do you have a favourite form of expression?

Although I’m trained as a carver, my main practice is Tā Moko (traditional Māori tattooing). I also love to paint, make prints and have started making jewellery too.

How does your heritage influence your art and inspire you?

My art is what connects me to my heritage. I strive to follow in the footsteps of my ancestors in a way that would make them proud. My ancestors are my biggest inspiration.

Learn more about Tristan Marler (aka Manawa Tapu) and his art here.

Join in the Matariki celebrations at your local Westfield by visiting the What’s Happening page on their website.

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