Wahakura are unique, lovingly hand-woven sleep spaces for pēpi (baby) made out of harakeke and using the tradition of rāranga. The wahakura is the first kaupapa Māori safe-sleeping device. It is a contemporary solution to help combat ‘Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy’ (SUDI) based on the customary practice of weaving harakeke. Wahakura also support Māori cultural values of co-sleeping, promote bonding and breastfeeding, and allow for parents to respond instantaneously to their pēpi during the first few weeks of life.
The weaving wānanga will be led by Jenny Firmin (rāranga teacher, nō Whanganui), who will be teaching the wahakura waikawa style to hapū māmā and their whānau, weavers and supporting professionals.
Opportunities to share positive hauora messages and to connect with other support networks locally will be another focus of the weekend. This is the first of four wānanga planned for the MidCentral district. This is a Partnership of many local services (including but not limited to Raukawa Whānau Ora, Levin Supergrans, Barnardos – Bumps to Babies) who have provided invaluable support and contributed toward the upcoming delivery of this wānanga.
Ms Firmin has developed a method to teach the waikawa style of weaving wahakura with non-weavers, particularly whānau who are expecting a pēpi. Teaching whānau how to make their own wahakura will empower whānau to create their own pathways to whānau ora or wellbeing. She believes that teaching whānau how to weave rather than do it for them creates further opportunities for whānau to think about how they are preparing to welcome their new pēpi into the world while producing a wahakura that is unique and reflects the aspirations of the whānau.
Ms Firmin learnt the waikawa style of weaving wahakura from Dawn Kereru from Gisborne, in Levin at Te Kokiri in 2013. She acknowledges that this is a great way to be able to give back to the community in which “I fell in love with wahakura.”
The understandings and tikanga (cultural practices) associated with harakeke; weaving and wahakura have many similarities with pregnancy, birth and raising tamariki. For example, Hineteiwaiwa is the goddess of both weaving and childbirth. The harakeke plant is made up of a fan with a rito (pēpi) in the centre, surrounded by the mātua rau (parent leaf) and then the kaumātua rau (grandparent leaves). The rito and mātua rau are always nurtured and never harvested as they ensure the future survival and wellbeing of the plant.