Rock-art puppets to mark Matariki

by Kent Caddick

The world’s first Maori rock-art-inspired puppet show will help Selwyn residents mark this month’s Matariki, the Maori New Year.

Matariki is the Maori name for the group of stars also known as the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters and the Maori New Year is traditionally marked by the rise of Matariki in late May or June. This year it rises on June 25. 

As part of the celebrations Toro Pikopiko Puppets will perform its Maori rock-art puppet production, Te Rerenga — the Flight, with two public shows in Lincoln and Darfield as well as shows at Prebbleton and Darfield primary schools.

The driving forces behind Toro Pikopiko Puppets are Jeffrey Addison (Ngai Tahu) and Whaitaima Te Whare (Ngati Tuwharetoa), a performance duo with 22 years of experience in creating radio and television programmes for children as well as touring interactive puppet shows both nationally and internationally. 

Jeffrey Addison said Te Rerenga — the Flight is an acoustic rock musical, featuring 100 ‘Flatso’ puppets inspired from ancient cave drawings made on limestone cliffs and caves around the Timaru district. “The production takes its audience back in time a thousand years where they get fully involved helping tell the story by animating a host of rock art puppets that meet up with the bird woman while she searches for her whanau.

“The production is a result of a collaboration with the staff of Te Ana Maori Rock Art Centre whose aim is to increase the appreciation and awareness of indigenous rock art among the nation’s children. 

“We would like to thank Creative Communities Selwyn for their support in bringing the show to the district.” 

The public shows will be held at the Lincoln Event Centre on June 13, between noon and 1pm, while Darfield Library will host the other show on June 16 from 9.15am to 10.15am.

Matariki will also be celebrated throughout the month with book displays and activities for children of all ages available at all Selwyn libraries.

Four videos displaying Matariki story readings will be playing on the TV screens in libraries each week during June.