Sign of the Times

Designer Tyrone Ohia on creating the official tohu for Matariki.

Sign of the Times

Designer Tyrone Ohia on creating the official tohu for Matariki.

Tyrone Ohia of Extended Whānau recently designed the tohu for Matariki, Aotearoa’s newest public holiday. “Now more than ever, Matariki is an important marker for us as a country to come together in a uniquely Aotearoa way,” he says. 

Why is Matariki important to us?

Matariki has always been important to us as Māori. Our people have been celebrating and observing Matariki in their own ways for many years. Their collective efforts have led to a more widespread awareness of the rituals and stories surrounding this observational period and now we gather as a country in 2022 to celebrate Matariki as an official national public holiday – the first indigenous public holiday globally for more than 90 years..l;

Matariki is inseparable from our Māori culture, but it is here for all peoples of Aotearoa to celebrate and honour. Taking time to genuinely reflect on the past, to celebrate the present with whānau and friends, and to look to the future are things we can all do together. Taking a moment to observe the stars and to connect with the rhythms of the natural world pulls us out of our busy modern lives and reminds us of the big picture we are all a part of.

How did you come to design the tohu?

We were fortunate to have Professor Rangi Mātāmua approach us to be involved in designing the identity for the public holiday, which included the tohu. Rangi chairs the Matariki Advisory Group, a group of Māori experts who have been instrumental in establishing the themes and principles for our Matariki celebrations. 

How did you approach the design?

Like a lot of our projects, we had a good working group to wānanga with. This included people from Te Arawhiti, Te Māngai Pāho, Te Papa, Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga, and was guided by Rangi. For us, good design comes out of rigorous discussion, and that’s what we did, we designed and discussed, until we were all happy. 

The final symbol is an interpretation of the Matariki cluster, grounded in mātauranga Māori. It travels all the way back to the stories of our stars being arranged in the sky like tukutuku panels. The tukutuku cross-hatch is what stars look like in our culture. The stars within the cluster are held together by these cross weaves, and the colours reflect the different characteristics of the nine stars.

No pressure, eh? 

Yeah, tell me about it. We won’t get to be involved in anything like this again in our lifetime. But we had a good support team, so we just focussed on doing what we do.

How will you celebrate Matariki?

This year I’ll be working! Next year, I want to start a new yearly tradition of heading back to Tauranga to catch up with whānau and connect with my home lands. 


Friday June 24, 2022



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