This year's Vector Lights project for Matariki has been coordinated with Te Kawerau a Maki and tells the story of the arrival of their ancestors.
Auckland Harbour Bridge at nearly a kilometre long, only 30 metres high and asymmetrical, pretty much sticks and girders with no flat surfaces, is not an easy canvas for a world-beating light artwork.
But Rich Neville, whose Sydney-based lighting design company Mandylights installed and now maintains all 90,000 solar-powered LED lights for Vector Lights on the bridge, is super-excited to be designing the Te Kawerau a Maki show for Matariki, opening this weekend.
The ten minutes of story-telling was put together by Robin Taua-Gordon from this year’s Matariki co-host (with Auckland Council) Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority. Their rohe extends from the Manukau Harbour to Muriwai, Mahurangi down to the Waitemata includes the Waitakere Ranges (it is their ancestors depicted on the pou at Arataki visitor centre) so it was important for Taua-Gordon to include the story of the mighty kauri and the devastation caused by dieback disease.
Vector had given the tiny iwi an open brief (‘whatever story you want to tell, we’ll go with it”) and iwi chairman Te Warena Taua had an enormous depth of traditional knowledge, so the show begins with the story of the Tainui waka (Te Kawerau are the most northernmost iwi) arriving at Aotearoa.
“We start Matariki with the rising of the star Puanga, which rises before the other stars,” says Taua-Gordon. “So the show starts in complete darkness before Puanga rises. Then, we pay homage to the taniwha who guided us here before a haunting karanga calls the waka to the shore.”
Taua-Gordon’s vision of arrival - the flowers of Hawaiki meeting those of Aotearoa, and settlement building whare and pa before heading into the ancient forest full of birds and trees - was an exciting challenge for Neville and his lighting designers.
“We’ve got lots of triangles and geometric devices, and we’ve got to represent birds flying, tree trunks and foliage,” he says. “I love the lighting elements on the bridge because you’ve got to contend with the road deck, you can’t use certain patterns or colours to distract the drivers above. And it looks different from different angles, the eye fills in the dots. It’s not just slapping videos on to a flat surface.”
“One of the great things is the soundtrack. We’ve got a huge dynamic range from prayer to birds, to haka. It’s madly exciting for me, as a designer is only as good as the material [he’s] been given.”
The sound was a family affair, from the voice of Te Warena Taua in the karakia to the haunting - tear-jerking, in fact - taonga puoro music of ancient flutes by Riki Bennett. Son Tyler Rakataura Taua-Gordon, a teacher, composed the haka and has travelled around schools teaching it to hundreds of kids to perform at the dawn karakia that opens Matariki [Saturday, Arataki Visitor Centre].
The shows will be running through the weekends of Matariki, so Neville suggests travelling to different points around Auckland to see it with still water in front, city lights or the twinkles of the Waitakere Ranges in the background.
When to watch:
Sun 1 July, Fri 6 July, Sat 7 July, Fri 13 July, Sat 14 July, Fri 20 July and Sat 21 July, from 6pm – midnight each night.
Where: Auckland Harbour Bridge
An audio link appears here when the show is about to start. Or watch a livestream here.
Best viewing points:
North: Little Shoal Bay (Northcote); Bayswater Marina; Takarunga/Mt Victoria or Queens Parade (Devonport)
Central: Bastion Point, Auckland waterfront, Sentinel Beach (Herne Bay), Maungahwau/Mt Eden
West: Harbour View Beach Reserve (Te Atatū Peninsula)
Other sparkling nights
Light Up Tāmaki
Auckland Museum, Manukau Civic Building, the Sky Tower and other prominent buildings all over Tāmaki Makaurau light up in Matariki colours to celebrate the festival season.
30 June–22 July
Te Ara I Whiti
Tūrama: Matariki Light Trail
The first ever Matariki light show at Arataki Visitor Centre, starting at the ancestral pou, and exploring the bush canopies lit to represent the stars of Matariki.
Bookings: Call 09 892 4789
Fri 6 July – Mon 9 July, 6pm – 8pm
Kids: $5 Adults: $10
Te Ara Rama Matariki Light Trail
Te Ara Rama Matariki Light Trail
Sat 14 July – Sat 21 July, 6pm – 9pm nightly
Maybury Reserve, 96 Line Road, Glen Innes (behind Te Oro)
Fri 13 July, Sat 14 July, Sun 15 July 5pm–10pm
Smales Farm, 72 Taharoto Rd, Takapuna
Lighting of flames visible from the historical areas of Mokemoke and Te Whetu Matarau, with festival finale fireworks and mass singing of E Pari Rā
Sun 22 July, 7pm
Matiatia Headlands / Ferry Terminal, Waiheke Island