In his book, Matariki: The Star of the Year, Dr Rangi Matamua tells us about Te Ara Wairua; the pathway of the spirits.


He says “Māori belief determines that when an individual dies, their spirit leaves their body and undertakes a journey along Te Ara Wairua, the pathway of the spirits. This journey ends at the northernmost point of the North Island at a place called Te Rerenga Wairua, the departing place of the spirits. The dead travel along the rocky ledge towards the ocean where an ancient pohutukawa tree stands. They then descend down the aka (root) of this tree and disappear into the underworld.

Pohutukawa is the star that connects Matariki to the deceased and is the reason people would cry out the names of the dead and weep when Matariki was seen rising in the early morning.”

It is through Pohutukawa that Māori remember those who have died in the past year.

The whole class can think about Pohutukawa and Te Ara Wairuain this collaborative art project. The idea is:

  1. each student draws their own version of the story of Pohutukawa

  2. one picture is selected as the master, and divided up into a grid of 30 equal parts

  3. each student is allocated one small piece of the grid, and then reinterprets the piece on a full A4 sheet of paper

  4. all the pieces are re-assembled and ….. nō konei (voila) ! A masterpiece!

Teachers Detailed Instructions

Step 1 - The Initial Artwork

  • Choose your media (we recommend pastels)

  • Talk to your children about the story of Pohutukawa and Te Ara Wairua, and ask them to each to draw a picture to the theme of Pohutukawa

  • Select an artwork with lots of detail, which can be used as the master

  • Next, based on how many students will be recreating the artwork, create a grid on the back of your artwork by folding your piece of paper into small squares (Half, half again…) until you have your desired number on squares. (I normally try and get more squares for those children that might have a quick part of the art to complete. Some people prefer to rule a grid on the back and this works the same.)

  • Flip over the artwork so you are writing on the back side where you folded/drew the grid. Start at the upper left corner and number horizontally from left to right on each line.

  • Cut the grid up ready for each child to have their own piece

Step 2 - The Grand Masterpiece

  • Display the Matariki artwork and explain the collaborative challenge

  • Be clear on whether the children are to complete their artwork landscape or portrait before they start

  • Each child gets a piece of the artwork with the number on the back

  • They record the number on the back of their piece of paper

  • Each child recreates the piece of the puzzle they have focusing on colours, detail and enlarging their image.

  • When they have finished their piece it is placed on the mat ready for each piece to come together to complete the image.

Additional note: be creative! You might like to create your artwork using use hands, feet, .... anything.