Wānanga Wahakura – Preparing to welcome new life
Following on from the popularity of past events, another weaving wānanga is to be held at Linton Community Centre this weekend, 10-12 May. The event is held by Mokopuna Ora, in partnership with local community groups, and teaches the wahakura waikawa style to hapū māmā, their partners and whānau, weavers and supporting professionals.
Jenny Firmin (rāranga teacher, nō Whanganui), along with a team of local weavers will be taking the session, which doubles as an opportunity to share positive hauora messages and connect with local support networks. Mrs Firmin learnt the waikawa style of weaving wahakura from Dawn Kereru from Gisborne, in Levin at Te Kokiri in 2013.
Wahakura are unique lovingly hand-woven sleep spaces for pēpi 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.
This is a Partnership of local services in conjuction with NZ Army and Linton Military Camp who have provided invaluable support and contributed hugely toward the delivery of this wānanga.
Jenny 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 doing 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.
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.