Raranga classes have new home in Flaxmere

Learning the art of weaving, raranga, has a multitude of benefits, including connecting to wairua and tīpuna, and learning the tikanga that goes with the harvesting and cleaning of the flax. And then there is a beautiful useful item at the end of it.

Pā Harakeke families will have the chance to learn or perfect their weaving skills from mid-January at a dedicated whare, Te Whare Pora, in the Flaxmere Shopping Centre. An official opening will be held on January 14.

Raranga tutor Niwa Brightwell is excited and a just a little bit nervous about the challenge she has taken on, after 10 years of school teaching at Hastings Girls High School.

The focus is hapūtanga, or pregnant families. That can be mum, dad, sister, nanny – anyone in the family, says Niwa.

Te Whare Pora has been set up in a shop within the shopping centre by Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga. It includes a kiddies’ play area and a quiet room where mums can take time out or babies can sleep.

It will be officially opened on January 14, from when it will be open five days a week with weaving class days and times to be confirmed. There will also be a Taiwhenua navigator on site, Jay-Sheree Scott, to help people access services they need.

For Niwa, teaching weaving carries on a family tradition. Her auntie was taught by noted weaver and author Erenora Puketapu. That teaching was passed on to Niwa’s mother, and then to Niwa. Over the last three years she has been teaching her high school students the art. “I’ve been weaving since I was a teen; for me it is a connection to our cultural practices and to our wairua and tīpuna. I’m excited about giving our Flaxmere families the opportunities weaving brings.”

The Pā Harakeke classes will start off working on small items including ipo pito, used to store a baby’s umbilical cord, and ipo whenua, for burying a placenta, with Niwa harvesting and preparing the flax.

As the weavers move onto larger items, like baby beds and storage boxes, students will start to learn how to harvest flax properly and prepare it for weaving.

While the official opening of Te Whare Pora is not until mid-January, Niwa and Jay-Sheree are often in the whare, getting ready for the new year. Niwa says if the doors are open, people are welcome to pop in. “There has been a lot of interest; people are curious and they are welcome to come and have a look and a kōrero.”


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