Render of Puanga in situ, by Angus Muir

Viaduct Harbour’s annual Matariki celebrations are kicking off with a striking, immersive installation — here’s what you need to know

The rising of the Pleiades (or Matariki) star cluster above Aotearoa’s winter sky marks the beginning of the Māori lunar new year — a time to gather with community to celebrate new beginnings while honouring the past. Matariki is an opportunity for fresh inspiration, creativity, a shift in perspective, and a chance to start anew.

Karakia Matariki honouring the unveiling of Puanga

As has become tradition, once again, the vibrant Viaduct Harbour has unveiled an immersive lighting installation in acknowledgement of this year’s Matariki ki te Manawa celebrations. Conceived by London-based Kiwi creative director Tuhirangi Blair (Ngāti Whātua, Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Awa) in collaboration with lauded local installation artist Angus Muir, the immersive display offers a creative exploration of the Māori concept of timekeeping through celestial navigation.

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Dubbed Puanga, the installation sits as a simple but captivating cube structure within Viaduct Harbour’s Market Square, catching refractions of light as it bounces directly off a dichroic render in a stunning interplay of movement and colour. Once inside, viewers are taken on a kaleidoscopic journey of sight and sound, transported to the depths of the cosmos as internal mirrors distort time and space while multitudes of light reflect off every surface — the experience heightened by a luscious soundscape to evoke the essence of Puanga’s narrative.

‘Puanga’ installation, conceived by creative director Tuhirangi Blair in collaboration with installation artist Angus Muir in Viaduct Harbour

The story behind the creative work is one of magnitude and meaning, delving into the nuances of celestial storytelling in a captivating and informative way. “While Matariki (Pleiades) is widely recognised as the signifier of the new year, Puanga (Rigel) held significance for certain iwi (tribes) in the far north, Chatham Islands, parts of the west coast, and much of the South Island,” Blair tells us, “This wasn’t a rejection of Matariki, but rather a nuanced system where stars like Puanga, Tautoru (Orion’s Belt), and Pipiri (Canopus) worked together. For Ngāti Whātua (mana whenua of the Tāmaki Makaurau and Kaipara area), Puanga held particular importance.”

“Known as Puanga Kakaho (Puanga the Fair Haired), this star embodies a captivating yet contentious narrative,” Blair continues, “She desires to be the sole herald of the new year, constantly adorning herself to attract Tama-nui-te-rā (the Sun) and rise beside him in the month of Pipiri.”

Captured to striking effect within the cube’s four walls, the tale is given life via the shell which mimics the star’s colourful spectrum, the mirrored walls evoking themes of vanity, and the expansive LED light illuminating the narrative as it sits as a dazzling display vying for attention, mirroring Puanga’s efforts to outshine Matariki. 

Viaduct Harbour stands as a beacon of creativity at the heart of Auckland’s urban landscape — the unveiling of Puanga only further solidifying the precinct as one of the city’s most important hubs of cultural connection.


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