Te Puawaitanga Ki Ōtautahi Trust conducts regular wananga (workshops) to weave wahakura – flax bassinets for infants up to six months old – where people can learn the art of weaving and leave with something that will keep babies safe.

“After the earthquakes we lost thousands of homes and the concern our staff were reporting back was there were often several families living in one house,” explains Te Puawaitanga’s general manager Alison Bourn. “At the same time the earthquakes were terrifying and people wanted their babies close to them and provide security for them. We were concerned about the safety of babies in those situations and decided to make and provide wahakura for families.”

Te Puawaitanga identified they’d need 170 wahakura every year to meet the needs of families, and with the help of funding from New Zealand Red Cross and support from Te Runanga Ngai Tahu, they’re on target with 340 wahakura completed over the past two years. Approximately 300 have been given to families with the remainder held in reserve.

“We wanted to build an aspect into the project where we could support people who wanted to develop their weaving skills and make wahakura themselves,” Alison says. “We’ve run five wananga now and have had an average of 20 people come to each one. Everyone leaves with their own wahakura that they use for their own whanau or they donate it to Te Puawaitanga for our clientele.”

Alison says the wananga attract a wide range of participants, from beginners to experienced weavers.

“The weavers willingly give up their time to support the participants. We see hapu (families), women with pepi, grandparents, midwives and others in the early childhood sector who want to learn to make wahakura and support the families they work with,” she says. “The diversity has been surprising, but we’re proud that we’ve been able to support so many people make wahakura and pass on the skill of weaving.”