The Christchurch Symphony Orchestra is embarking on an enchanting journey exploring the Matariki star cluster around the globe with CSO Presents: Matariki Around the World!
Based on the wonderful book of the same name, written by Rangi Matamua and Miriama Kamo, illustrated by Isobel Joy Te Aho-White, and published by Scholastic New Zealand – this will be a performance like no other.
We spoke to co-author Miriama Kamo about the upcoming show.
Are you excited about the CSO show?
Very excited! It’s so special to come home and to have the CSO – which is such a beloved institution – perform this based on our book. It’s so humbling.
Have you been involved with it at all?
No, I haven’t, other than having helped write the book, but that’s as it should be as mine is the least important role, so they haven’t needed me!
That’s very modest and I can’t imagine it’s true!
It is in terms of the artistry – I’m not a musical person. I’m just narrating it, but even then, I can’t believe they’re letting me narrate with the CSO! But the performance itself has so many talented people involved in it – and so many amazing Māori artists, that it’s really humbling for me. The performance incorporates Isobel Te Aho-White’s art – she is the illustrator for Matariki Around the World – so audiences will see her beautiful artwork in the backdrops and Juanita Hepi is the creative director – so there are a whole bunch of amazing people involved in this. It’s an overwhelming humbling feeling for me.
You’ve written two books on Matariki yourself and this one – Matariki Around the World – you co-wrote with Rangi Matamua. Why did the CSO choose this book, do you think?
I’m not sure – when they asked me, I was so eager to say yes, I didn’t ask why this particular one! But yes, my first two books are very much about my childhood whereas this one is a collaboration with Rangi and so it does have a different feel to it. When I was asked to write it, I said that I wasn’t sure about it as I am not an expert on Matariki and I wouldn’t have felt right creating it and so I asked Rangi and he said yes which was fantastic because he’s an academic and knows so much and also he’s just such a great person. Working with him was so much fun.
What was your collaborative process like?
I think we only actually met one time in person! But when we did it was like we’d known each other for years. But writing the book happened over email and through phone calls.
And Isobel came on later?
Yes. Lynette at Scholastoc suggested her and when we saw her illustrations we were like ‘yes! a hundred times, yes!’ The process though was really interesting – she would create the illustrations and send them through to us and we would give her our feedback. So even though we weren’t at a table together, everyone was doing the mahi. We trusted each other entirely. In terms of the writing, I knew I was dealing with an expert in Rangi and he would send notes and we would decide together what should be in the book – and along the way we’d decide what we would need to add. So basically he would send me the writing and I would turn it into kid-friendly language.
What a lovely process..
It was. And what was really special on a personal level was that when were writing it, my dad has recently passed away and when we got to the bit about acknowledgements and thank you’s, Rangi called me and said that he would like to give up his space so that I could use it to acknowledge my dad. He said, ‘This year, according to our beliefs, your dad will rise with Matariki,’ and so that was incredibly special for me to able to do that, and so generous of him to give up that space for me to do it.
How much did your childhood in Christchurch inform your other Matariki books?
Very much so. It was my chance to honour the stories of my people and my whānau and that amazing, raw, powerful place of Birdlings Flat – it was really an ode to Birdlings and the wider landscape. It’s actually a series of five books – there are three more to come.
Did you grow up with Matariki?
No, I only connected to it about 15 years ago. We’re still working out how we’re going to celebrate it – for me it’s become more important than Christmas and I love Christmas and I was brought up with Christmas – but there’s something about Matariki for me that leads me to feeling grounded in the whenua and who I am as a Māori woman. I’m still learning and writing this book with Rangi has been a huge part of this process.
How are you celebrating this year?
I’m home for Matariki and so that’s perfect for me – I want to have a Matariki whānau feast and honour the different parts of the environment that have been so important to me.
The CSO perform Matariki Around the World at the James Hay Theatre on July 5.