Essential Information

Type Events and festivals
In Greenwich
Date and Times Saturday 29 June 2024 | 10.30am-4pm
Prices Planetarium show ticketed | All other events free

Celebrate Māori New Year and explore the connections between the stars and Pacific Island cultures with Royal Museums Greenwich.

Matariki is a bright star cluster visible for most of the year in Aotearoa (New Zealand). Its first appearance in the night sky in late June or early July marks the beginning of the new year in Māori culture.

This year the Royal Observatory Greenwich and National Maritime Museum are partnering with communities from across the vast Pacific Ocean based both in the UK and the Pacific to mark this important cultural moment, and highlight the links between the stars, the seasons and Tangata Moana (people of the Pacific Ocean).

An audience enjoys a Planetarium show at the Royal Observatory. They are lying back in big armchairs, staring up at a ceiling filled with blue light projections of distant galaxies
Inside the Peter Harrison Planetarium at the Royal Observatory Greenwich

The event is co-hosted with the Tangata Moana Advisory Board, a group that was established with the National Maritime Museum after their collaboration with the Pacific Encounters gallery that opened in 2018. The Board celebrates indigenous cultures and perspectives, and ensures that culturally significant taonga (treasures) in the Museum are understood and respected.

Join us in Greenwich for a day of family activities, shows and storytelling workshops; check out what's on below.

Event schedule

Morning activities are hosted by the Royal Observatory and begin in the Peter Harrison Planetarium. The afternoon events take place at the National Maritime Museum. Visitors are welcome to join throughout the day and take part in as many activities as they like. The Planetarium show is ticketed and must be booked in advance; all other events are free.

Morning at the Royal Observatory

10.15am: Introducing Matariki Members of the Tangata Moana Advisory Board will welcome guests to the Peter Harrison Planetarium with a karakia (prayer)followed by an introduction to Matariki celebrations and its connection to the stars.

10.15-11.15am: Planetarium show Join Royal Observatory Greenwich astronomers for a special screening of Lala Rolls' fantastic show, Ngā Tohunga Whakatere – The Navigators, at the Royal Observatory’s planetarium.

The film explores the symbolism of the skies in Māori culture and highlights Māori, Pasifika and European voyaging traditions. Connecting the stars with the history of navigation, the planetarium show is a brilliant introduction to our shared connections to the cosmos and a brilliant introduction to Royal Museums Greenwich’s Matariki programming.

Book tickets

Members book here

Please note: This is a ticketed planetarium show (Adults: £10 | Children: £5). Tickets include admission to the whole Royal Observatory site, and you are welcome to participate in other activities or explore the historic buildings after the show. The show is recommended for adults and children aged 8+.

11.30am-12.30pm: Storytelling with Jamie Tahana The Royal Observatory will be hosting two drop-in storytelling sessions lasting 30 minutes each. Jamie will share stories about Matariki and there will be time for a few questions at the end of each session. Sessions are first-come, first-served and capacity is limited.

11-30am-2.20pm: Young Astronomers Matariki special The Royal Observatory's regular Young Astronomers workshops encourage 4-11 year-olds to ask everything they’ve ever wanted to know about astronomy, and participate in a range of activities themed around science and exploration. This Saturday, Observatory astronomers are teaming up with the Tangata Moana Advisory Board to create a range of hands-on activities linked to Matariki. Sessions are drop-in and last around 15 minutes; capacities are limited so you may have to wait to attend.


Afternoon at the National Maritime Museum

1.30-4pm: Storytelling workshops Explore the cultural importance of Matariki with members and friends of the Tangata Moana Advisory Board. Each session will tell the story of Matariki from a different island or people, with a visual presentation to accompany the story. Sessions include:

  • Māori Aotearoa Matariki
  • Kiribati Nei Auti
  • Mangaia Matariki
  • Samoan Mata’ali’i

2.30-3.30pm: Manu aute/manu tukutuku making workshop Join members of the Tangata Moana Advisory Board to make a Māori kite.

The Māori kite is known as manu tukutuku or manu aute. 'Manu' means both kite and bird, and the word 'tukutuku' refers to the winding out of the line as the kite ascends. Kites were also known as pākau, a name for the wing of a bird.

Kites were flown for recreation, but they also had other purposes: used for divination – to gauge whether an attack on an enemy stronghold would be successful, or to locate wrongdoers. They were also a means of communication on many levels. Kites were also flown at Matariki to celebrate the start of a new cycle (year).

These sessions, aimed at both adults and families, will take place in the afternoon at the National Maritime Museum and will be offered free to all. Activity resources will also be shared with children in the Pacific Encounters gallery (pictured).


What is Matariki?

Members of the Tangata Moana Advisory Board explain the meaning and significance of Matariki for different island groups:

"The word matariki or similar, referring to the Pleiades star cluster, is found in many Polynesian languages.

"In the Marquesas Islands the star cluster is known as Matai'i or Mata'iki, in the Cook Islands, as Matariki, and in the Tuamotu archipelago as Mata-ariki. In some languages it has the meaning of 'little eyes', but in most it is a contraction of mata-ariki, meaning 'eyes of the god' or 'eyes of the chief'. 

"For each island or group of islands, Matariki carries its own meaning and holds its own significance. In Hawai'i, the rising of Makali'i in November ushers in the four-month season Makahiki, which honours Lono, the god of agriculture and fertility. 

"In Tahiti, the year was divided into two seasons, named according to whether the Pleiades are visible after sunset: Matari'i i nia (Matari'i above) and Matari'i i raro (Matari'i below). 

"On Rapa Nui, Matariki heralded the New Year, and its disappearance in mid-April ended the fishing season.

"During the events in Greenwich our Pasifika diaspora UK will be telling the story of Matariki from their own island or group of islands, and what it means to us."

Image: Blue Spirit Drifting in the Clouds © Haocheng Li and Runwei Xu, shortlisted in Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2023

Our partners

Matariki celebrations at Royal Museums Greenwich are generously supported by Air New Zealand, Lala Rolls, the New Zealand High Commission and the Tangata Moana Advisory Board.

Main image courtesy of NASA, ESA and AURACaltech