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.
This weekend (29 Sept-1 Oct), at Mana Tamariki, Grey Street, will be the second weaving wananga held in Palmerston North where Jenny Firmin (rāranga teacher, nō Whanganui), will be teaching the wahakura waikawa style to weavers, supporting professionals and hapū māmā and their whanau. Opportunities to share positive hauora messages and to connect with other support networks locally will be another focus of the weekend. The interest has been so high that they were not able to accommodate everyone, however there will be more workshops provided next year. This is a collaboration of many local services who have provided invaluable support and contributed toward the upcoming delivery of this wananga.
Ms Firmin has developed a method to teach the waikawa style of weaving wahakura with non-weavers, particularly whānau who are expecting a pepi. Teaching whānau how to make their own wahakura will empower whānau to create their own pathways to whānau ora or wellbeing. Jenny recalls the quote “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. She believes that teaching whānau how to weave rather than do it for them creates further opportunties for whānau to think about how they are preparing to welcome their new pepi 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 four years ago. She says “it’s where I developed a strong passion and aroha for the kaupapa” by using customary weaving practice to create a beautiful safe sleep space for whānau and their pepi.
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 (pepi) 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.
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