Wānanga Wahakura – Preparing to welcome new life
8 October 2019
Following on from the popularity of past events, another weaving wānanga is to be held at Te Hotu Manawa o Rangitāne Marae in Palmerston North this weekend, 11-13 October. The event is held by Mokopuna Ora, in partnership with Best Care Whakapai Hauora, and teaches the wahakura waikawa style to hapū māmā, their partners and whānau, weavers and supporting professionals.
The workshop is taught by Jenny Firmin (rāranga teacher, nō Whanganui), who teaches using the tradition of rāranga to create unique, lovingly hand-woven sleep spaces for pēpi made out of harakeke. 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 event will also provide opportunities to share positive hauora messages and to connect with other support networks locally. It will be the final wānanga of 2019 planned for the MidCentral district.
Mrs Firmin learnt the waikawa style of weaving wahakura from Dawn Kereru from Gisborne, in Levin at Te Kokiri in 2013.
She 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.
In addition, Mokopuna Ora will also be piloting an ipu whenua (vessel to hold placenta) making workshop, post wānanga, that will engage wānanga attendees (hapū māmā, partners and whānau) to connect with the traditional practice of returning the whenua (placenta) back to Papatūānuku.