One of the things that I have been researching for my internship is the different plants on the whenua, their uses and the importance of them to restoring our native bush. This information is exciting to share with the guests we host on the whenua - they always enjoy learning about the different plants. How much do you know about Harakeke? Here's what I've been learning...
Harakeke is also known by the scientific name (Phormium tenax & phormium cookianum)
Harakeke is one of the most oldest plant species found in New Zealand and is found all over Aotearoa, commonly in the lower land swamp area.
Use: The household name for Harakeke is flax. The seed of the harakeke is used for its oil as it has linoleic acid (CLA) which has a multi-purpose medicinal use, such as anti-cancer properties, anti-asthmatic properties, helps with osteoporosis and also high cholesterol just to name a few. In the stump of the harakeke in the base of the plant is found a gel. This gel can be used for cuts, burns and itchy bites. When applying the gel on to skin it turns into a layer, just like an Aloe vera type of gel.
Aesthetics: The harakeke looks like a long green sword, which grows up to 2-3 meters long. The long dark black stalks which the flowers grow from can grow up to 4 meters long. The dark red flowers on the harakeke are called kōrari .
In a Māori perspective, harakeke is an analogy to a whānau. This is shown with the core of the plant. The first shoot is called the rito and is seen as the child. The parents are both surrounded around the rito and are both called awhi rito. The harakeke on the outer layers are the tupuna (grandparents). If the core shoots are taken out, the plant will die. This is why when weaving, experts have to undergo an appropriate karakia and know what flax to cut in order for the harakeke to continue to flourish.
There are a vast range of tikanga to uphold when weaving this plan. There are two native species of harakeke that are commonly used to weave flax (Phormium tenax/Phormium cookianum). The rito and the awhi rito should never be touched. Only the outer layers should be cut but before there should be a karakia done before cutting, the weather conditions also affect the extraction of harakeke. Cutting in a downward motion, close to the base as possible as this will help the harakeke continue to flourish longer. Traditionally women aren’t allowed to cut the harakeke but traditions have been modernised.
I shared much of this information with the guests on my first Home Fires of Tamaki hikoi that I hosted alone this week.
I hadn’t stopped thinking about this since the moment Becs told me I was doing this hikoi on the whenua rangatira... ALONE.
I woke up this morning going though all my dialogue and all the information I have been studying for a while BECAUSE I WAS TAKING A HIKOI ALONE THIS MORNING!!! I get nervous facilitating a hikoi, I think you could imagine how I was feeling about this.
So I’m at Mickey Sav (Michael J Savage Memorial) waiting for my group to arrive and I spot a van of people. They all make their way out of the van and assemble by Becs and I. I notice that they have three children with them and I get nervous because most content I know is all pretty advanced and not child friendly. I snap out of it and realise I’ve been studying primary teaching for three years now and tell myself its all going to be fine.
I then try to take charge and introduce myself as the tour guide, one man responds by introducing himself and the rest of his family and we begin the hikoi.
The Home Fires of Tamaki hikoi begins at Michael J Savage Memorial. At this stop I surprised myself as a outflow of dialogue, depicting the first elected Labour Prime Minister, implementing our welfare systems in NZ, who was in Parliament from 1935 to 1940. All this information was just coming to my head and I was really amazed.
The second stop is Joanne's point and at this point, Uncle Jamie tell us to “lay it on strong”, so making sure manuhiri know how hard the protest and occupation was on us as a hapū, to understand who was in the wrong and the consequences this protest had on us as an iwi.
After the pouri part of the tour, I like to take them to the Ti Kouka plant and get them to taste it because I really enjoy this as an afternoon snack. I then take them to the waharoa but I will make sure there is a bit of distance between us and the waharoa. I also advise them to not take photos.
The fourth stop is the nursery and the maara. I really like showing the manuhiri the parakore and it make me feel proud explaining our Zero Waste initiatives because it shows our respect to Papatuanuku and further reflects the land not belonging to us but us belonging to the land.
The last stop is right in my backyard, the barracks. I like this last stop because it is a really personal spot to me as it was my playground when I was attending Te Kura a Iwi Ngāti Whātua o Orākei. At this stop I explain that the land was wrongly taken from us under the Defence Force Act then later under the Public Works Act.
So I finally stopped being shy and I took my own hikoi, all alone and I really enjoyed it!
I can't wait for further experiences in my internship and taking more hikoi.
Have a safe Christmas and a happy new year