An experienced weaver of traditional Māori bassinets has outdone herself and woven what may be the biggest batch yet.
Cassandra Moar weaves wahakura waikawa, a type of traditional Māori cot of a particular depth and rigidity which is clinically-approved and enables safe co-sleeping for mums with newborn babies. On Wednesday Cassandra received twice as much harakeke (flax) as she had been expecting, so she threw up her hands and decided she may as well weave 19 baskets in one day - which she is fairly certain is a personal record.
"Me and my friend picked ten bags of flax on Wednesday, but when we got home, friends of mine had brought a load of flax over from Dargaville. I had two lots and I had to do something with it."
The DHB's involvement with Cassandra goes back a few years. It was realised families needed options if they were planning to co-sleep with their baby to make the practice safer. This led to the development of a safe sleep space that can be positioned on the bed next to the sleeping parent. The two types of space promoted in Northland are the Pepi-Pod and the wahakura waikawa, each of which are hygienic, safe and if well looked after can be passed onto whānau and reused for years. Each are several inches deep and have hard corners to prevent the cot from being crushed by mum's body.
Cassandra has always woven, but worked out the wahakura waikawa woven structure after some sessions at a marae in Heretaunga, Hawke's Bay, with Hastings GP and Māori safe sleep/SUDI researcher Dr David Tipene-Leach. Wahakura is the name of the weaving style/structure, and waikawa is a type of mat made of moss Cassandra said was traditionally used in the cribs - although today a baby-sized mattress fits in each crib perfectly, as pictured.
Cassandra's skills and Māori cultural expertise have made her highly in-demand these days and Cassandra supplies wahakura waikawa nationwide. She estimates she was woven well over 1000 in total. Locally they are in high demand, and the 20 fresh wahakura being handed to Te Puawai Ora will be quickly matched with families.
"I'm a fast weaver, I've been weaving since I was little. If you've got the right elements in line, if you say the right karakia for the flax and if the weather's right, you can weave them pretty quickly... plus I'm a virgo! We're hard-working."
Anyone with questions about safe co-sleeping with baby should contact Te Puawai Ora clinic on 09 430 2324.
Cassandra is happy to be reached on 022 6139 159 and is always keen on weavers to help her, as well as donations of flax.