Flax and native flora, a message from Aroha’s Kaitiaki

Nga mihi nui kia koutou katoa…

Tiwai RawiriI am of Ngati Torehina ki Matakaa, Ngati Pare & Ngati Mau descent. Being the whanau representative on Aroha Island Trustee committee allows me to help with the preservation & regeneration of this special place in a good & gentle way.  One of my roles is to care for the flax on the island.

I have been working with local weavers to produce our special range of Kete and Whakairo

Nga Taonga Whiri Toi, o te, Motu Aroha …. the creative weave of Aroha

There are two names in te reo depending on which part of Aotearoa you come from are used to describe Phorium tenax & P. cookium.

Harakeke: used by the wider community describes the sound each blade makes when rubbed together caused by the wind &

Korari: kupu (name) used by Ngapuhi for the flax flower

My earliest recollection of korari & its healing properties is when we moved from Wharengaere to Wellington. In my first 6 years, our family’s daily diet of kai moana & tarohoia ( a root vegetable eaten as a bread like supplement), puha, & watercress changed drastically to market garden vegetables, & freezing work meat. During this transition, we constantly suffered tummy upsets and other gastric complaints.

My mother, a weaver & knowledgeable in natural healing remedies (rongoa) sought out a flax bush as close as possible to the original variety grown on the shores of Wharengaere Bay & Aroha Island.  She found a small bush along the Hutt River, took a cutting & planted it on our property. She also brought a small piece of flax root about the size of a large 50 cent piece, boiled it & we swallowed a teaspoon full. We took this rongoa on a regular basis (every 3 to 6 months). Although it was quite bitter, it helped neutralize the toxins in the meat & vegetables we consumed which relieved our tummy upsets.

My mother used to say; never sick- a weaver when her hands create taonga (special things or gifts with korari. What she has crafted for her children, is given back in full (healing properties) by nga Tamariki o Tane (the children of Tane).

Although there are other plant varieties that are used for weaving, kiekie, pingao, kuta, supple jack etc.., I prefer to weave korari.  The blades of korari are more commonly used because of it’s availability & mostly, easy access.

Many things can be weaved; rope, hinaki (eel & fishing nets), kiinaki (loose weave kete for shaking sand out when harvesting pipi etc.  Also taamata (table mats), whaariki (large floor mats), kakahu (clothing) & many more.

Aroha Island has this healing plant as well as kawakawa for skin conditions & cuts, tutu for arthritis & OUS, & many other healing plants growing all over her grounds including the replanting of other herbal flora & fauna.

Aroha Island is a unique, special place that permeates with spiritual quality & sense of being; In-the-moment atmosphere.

We are blessed to have all these ‘gifts’ in one special place; to be admired, fondled, & used for our benefit.

Mauri Ora
(Be Well)