|Harakeke (it’s pronounced the way it looks) is the Maori, the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand, word for the perennial, ever-green flax that is native to New Zealand. Its colour, texture and beauty are aesthetically pleasing but the real heroics lie in what this plant can do!
Various forms of flax have been used in different civilisations for thousands of years. The Egyptians used it to wrap their mummies and their priests wore linen because of its association with purity. The Romans used it for their sails. Eventually, linseed oil became known for its medicinal properties. Flax was cultivated in the New World by colonists and has become a staple North American crop.
In the past, the Maori used harakeke for purposes as diverse as weaving clothing and baskets, thatching roofs, medicinal cures and even torches. Early Europeans settling in New Zealand found its fibrous quality perfect for making rope and linen. Recent experiments to use harakeke fibre as a replacement for fibreglass are opening new possibilities for its use in everyday objects.
This incredibly versatile plant has also made multiple runway appearances in designs at WOW, the World of Wearable Art, New Zealand fashion and arts event held every September in Wellington that showcases the beguiling, extraordinary world of wearable art from around the world.