The Travelling Playcentre Korowai

The Travelling Playcentre Korowai

Those of you who participated in Canterbury Playcentre association’s recent event The Greatest Game of Tag may have noticed the korowai, the ceremonial Māori cloak, being passed from one centre representative's shoulders to the next as the game proceeded across Canterbury. Intrigued by the korowai’s splendour and significance I asked its creator, Jackie Wadsworth from Kaikoura Playcentre, about it.

Jackie admits that the korowai’s creation was a last minute decision, made only a few days before the event was due to begin. Its origins, however, had been brewing for awhile as she had long ago promised to create a korowai for Waiau Playcentre but she seized this moment to finally make it happen. “It occurred to me on Friday night that I could make a korowai to be carried to all centres before being gifted to Waiau.”

The small North Canterbury town of Waiau was the epicentre of last November’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake and, although Jackie herself and her community in Kaikoura were still dealing with the consequences of such a huge seismic event themselves, Jackie managed to spare a thought for the Waiau community and take the time to make the korowai.

Jackie admits “I spent all Saturday frantically sewing. Luckily, the korowai I make are contemporary sewn cloaks, which are dramatically faster to produce than traditional woven ones.” The hurried pace with which it was created isn’t apparent; the korowai is a thing of beauty.

Embedded in the korowai is a powerful symbolic story. “I always enjoy the process of designing a korowai and weaving a story into it”, she says. “I wanted the Waiau one to be colourful, hopeful and uplifting. I decided to do ‘aoatea’ - the first flash of colourful light as the sun rises at the start of a new day, that dramatic transition from a time of darkness to the brightness of the coming day. I thought this represented the challenges and strength of Waiua Playcentre at this time and also the process of the Playcentre federation restructure. It also seemed like the perfect time to gift Waiau its korowai, as the more a korowai is worn the more mana it has, as it holds some of the energy and aroha of the wearers which strengthens it's wairua.”

At The Greatest Game of Tag launch party the korowai was blessed by local kaumātua, Brett Cowan. Brett “came to Playcentre to bless the korowai and all involved in its journey. He is community liaison for DOC and represents Ngati Kuri runanga at ceremonial occasions. He happily stopped painting his house that day to bless the korowai. During the blessing process he acknowledges the gods, and blesses the cloak using sacred water scattered on to the cloak using a fern frond. The process finishes with the sharing of Kai to end the tapu blessing”.

The korowai spent several weeks traveling around Canterbury, being passed with aroha from one Playcentre to the next, collecting the mauri of its wearers as it went. The korowai is now at home at Waiau Playcentre.

Thank you Jackie for the precious takoha. Kia kaha Waiau, Kaikoura and the rest of North Canterbury, still dealing with the repercussions of the earthquake.


Posted: Sunday 30 April 2017