Rock art stamps its mark on Matariki

31 May 2012

Early rock drawings are the inspiration for New Zealand Post’s 2012 Matariki stamp issue. The stamps are being issued next week as part of an annual series that celebrate the Māori New Year.

The issue, which includes six stamps, features rock art portraying legendary creatures and aspects of everyday life. It was developed by New Zealand Post in collaboration with the Ngāi Tahu Māori Rock Art Trust, and artist Dave Burke.

Māori rock art is evident throughout New Zealand and with the help of the Rock Art Trust, over 500 sites have been recorded in the South Island (Te Waipounamu) alone. The sites are spread from Fiordland in the south right through to the island’s northern tip, with major concentrations in the limestone rich areas of North Otago and South Canterbury.

The style of Māori rock art is similar to that from wider Polynesia, suggesting it was a practice brought to New Zealand by its earliest people.

“We’re proud to celebrate Matariki again this year with a stamp issue,” Simon Allison, Sales and Marketing Manager of Stamps for New Zealand Post, says.

“Together with the Ngāi Tahu Māori Rock Art Trust we carefully selected the six images which reflect what could be our country’s earliest artwork.

“One of the 70c stamps pictures a part-human, part bird figure or ‘birdman’ that appears frequently in drawings found in the south. The $2.90 stamp shows a large taniwha which originates from an artwork more than four metres wide found near the Opihi River in Canterbury.

“The drawings also shine a light on the challenges of everyday life back then. We’ve sought to capture this with the $1.40 stamp which shows two people on what may be a mōkihi - a watercraft made from raupo (bulrush) that was used to navigate the fast-flowing rivers of the South Island,” Simon Allison said.

The six stamp designs which make up the 2012 Matariki stamp issue.

“The remaining stamps feature two variations of tiki, or human figures, and Te Puawaitanga, which is commonly interpreted as a kiwi chick within an eggshell,” Simon Allison added.

New Zealand Post is the proud sponsor of Matariki festivals in Auckland and Wellington for the last five years, including the Kaumatua Kapa Haka event at Te Papa and the Manu Aute Kite Day at Orakei Marae.

The 2012 Matariki stamp issue includes a miniature sheet, two first day covers, a presentation pack with hand-painted imagery, and a limited edition publication.

The stamps are available from 6 June through selected New Zealand PostShops, at REAL Aotearoa stores in Auckland and Wellington, online at or 0800 STAMPS (782 677).