New Zealand Korowai Weaver
Commonwealth Point of Light 74. Maata McManus
Maata McManus, representing New Zealand, is a pioneering health worker who is using the ancient Maori art of weaving traditional feathered cloaks to reach local women in need of care and support.
First inspired by her efforts to comfort a women who had lost children to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Maata began leading therapeutic weaving workshops to give women a space to grieve and find peace. She teaches women across New Zealand how to weave the ‘korowai’ cloaks which are made with up to 4000 feathers and take at least three months to complete. When Maata realised that many of the Maori women she met in more rural communities were not accessing vital health screening services she began offering places on her popular workshops for women who agreed to undergo checks for breast and cervical cancer. As well as increasing take up of screening and providing support for grieving women, Maata is breathing new life into an ancient art form. She holds a biannual ball to showcase the cloaks the women make, inspiring attendees to keep this important Maori tradition alive for generations to come.
Laura Clarke, UK High Commissioner in New Zealand said:
“It is wonderful to see Maata being recognised for her dedication to preserving and passing on cultural heritage, interlinked with supporting the healthcare needs of her community. Maata truly is a Point of Light for those around her, to whom she provides comfort in times of darkness, pain and grief. Her work embodies the spirit of the modern Commonwealth and reflects a true commitment to creating a brighter future for all.”
Maata McManus said:
“I feel blessed to receive acknowledgement for my voluntary efforts in both the cultural and health sector. Contribution to my people and community inspires me throughout my journey. My passion for weaving was inspired by my aunt who taught me how to weave. I hope to share this taonga (treasure) with others as she shared with me. Korowai wananga (the cloak-weaving workshop) to me provides our people with time for wellness, a sense of achievement and connection to their people and culture. Lastly, I’d like to acknowledge my aunt, father and mother upon receiving this award.”
Pictured below: Maata receiving her award from UK High Commissioner in New Zealand Laura Clarke