Matariki story for early childhood centres

This is a short post because I have to confess that it is absurd that I am offering an all day experience focused around Matariki ( as well as a half day option) and yet there is no mention whatsoever of it on my website!! Flipping artists! so impractical!  So here comes the mention!

I have worked in early childhood for over ten years and while Matariki has gained in popularity, it is clear that many teachers are at a loss as to how to honour it. So I decided to create something. When I posted a photo of the wet felted wool hanging that I made for the occasion, the response was close to viral! Fortunately it faded away a bit, and I was left with  some serious bookings by people who sounded like they would really appreciate and value what I am offering.

What am I offering? It changes from day to day, just like the best  laid plans in day care and ECE. One starts somewhere and one lets it evolve. weaving together the curiosities and wonderment of both oneself and the children! And what a wonderful journey can eventuate.
Well, right now, I am  not with children, so it is my desires to be a stage director and script writer and playwright that are taking centre stage! I started with the wall hanging… and thought  this would be good to trial with the children, (first trial run tomorrow at a friend’s centre!…watch this space, maybe a photo will be added) and then I wanted to make the puppet show, and have been busy and obsessed with creating the faces of Papatuanuku and Tawhirimatea and learning about facial mokos and protocols for men and women, and also learning how to sculpt a face so that it looks like a man or a  woman…. sussed that now!

And then what about older women? how does one make them  look for real? and finding gorgeous images of women who are so wise and so rich and so wrinkled, and their eyes are  so bright, (including Whina Cooper) and I want to make Papatuanuku into a figure of joy and wisdom and laughter! and it has been such a pleasure. I started by building onto old papier mache heads that were just waiting for their moment of glory and built onto them with paper clay!

Next is the painting and then the cloaks..and maybe they  need hands!?

And then I saw a post by a woman who also offers Matariki  puppet shows and she has music. I started with the ukulele but this is not the time to suddenly start practising again  so I am using songs the children already know and creating words that fit for Papatuanuku and Tawhirimatea and Tamanuitera! and using the tunes of  Frere Jacques, Ma is White, and You are my sunshine! so at least the teachers will be able to bellow along with confidence if I have them written up large to read from!

I make these up while I am driving. I was going to an interview where I felt vulnerable and somewhat under attack but I made up songs for the God of “Storms as I drove there and suddenly realised that I felt a whole lot  more confident and even somewhat cocky! To the tune of Frere Jacques… try it, it feels good!

Tawhirimatea! Tawhirimatea

Don’t mess with  me!  don’t mess with me!

I’m as mad as mad can be, I’m as mad as  mad can be.

I’m the god of storms. I’m the god of storms!

Nice, eh? And of course it is important that the children get a chance to participate with hand gestures ,etc. So we can do rain gestures, then lightning gestures (think Spider man, plus sound effects) and thunder… (stamping feet!)

And so it goes on. I have yet to create the landscape so that it works for  the puppet people who will be waiting for Matariki to show itself on the dawn horizon, and I will have a Nana explaining why they are sitting on a cold hillside with an unopened hangi, and what the stars are called, and how Ururangi, the littlest, comes first because she loves her Kuia, her granny, Papatuanuku, and to curl up in her lap and laugh and hear her stories…and so on.

And what else? I have to make cloaks, and will use those gorgeous quilting fabrics which have such lovely Maori designs and motifs…..but I have my doubts about making  the cloaks join at the neck, King Arthur style, because Maori cloaks were usually worn with one side off the shoulder, and that is tricky cos my puppets don’t have shoulders! Let alone arms. Yet!

And so it continues to  unfold, and the other thing I have  offered, am offering , is a chance for some of the children to sit with me and make simple standing puppets for a story, and for teachers who are watching to see how simply they too can populate a plot. Alternatively I have thought of gathering  story dictations from the children, and doing a mat time with them in which we ‘do’ their stories a la Vivian Gussin Paley style.

It all remains fairly malleable and open to suggestion and requests from centres and the degree to which children are used to an improvised story telling culture. For some, it is old hat, and for others, it is too weird to contemplate or participate in.

So, there you go, in brief, and vaguely, this is what I am planning and offering. This week is a week of practice runs and then it is all go, including two full day visits to two centres in Hamilton. Thank you for believing in me, guys!

And there is of course that gorgeous song off the Te Papa website, which is really where I began, and also the story they have there about the different roles played by the six sisters.

I love the way the six sisters have begun to acquire character and personal qualities, so I feel I know them better and can speak for them, as the story unfolds. Often I will retell the story while I lie in the bath (my  happy place) and new twists and relationships will reveal themselves between the characters. The struggles between the God of storms and the Sun are not dissimilar to those faced by anyone in a power struggle or situation of conflict. There are skills to be learned and the art of ‘impulse control’…. he is a little hot headed and impulsive that God of Storms, Tawhirimatea!