Traditional Carriers: flax Pikau

on October 10, 2012

Traditionally, Maori women were avid babywearers, carrying their bubs in a cloth inside their cloaks or in a flax Pikau. In W. B. Otorohanga’s “Where the White Man Treads : Across the Pathway of the Maori” it appears that girls lived the lives of young tomboys until the age of 8 or 10 when “they grew strong enough to wahu, or pikau (carry) the baby” and their induction into womanhood began.

Of course, like all carriers and slings, Babywearing provided the Maori women with the opportunity to free their arms and go about their general business whilst ensuring that their infant was protected, warm and able to feed on demand.

New Zealand has archived an enormous amount of Maori Babywearing imagery. We have collected together a sample for your viewing pleasure


Ani Doherty carrying her son Bob Doherty on her back, photographed by Arthur James Iles, circa 1899

Unidentified Maori woman, with moko, carrying an infant on her back, 1892. Photographer unknown.

Haehaeora Te Rangitakatu carring her mokopuna (grandchild) on her back (Pikau) in a blanket (1948)
credit “Whites Aviation Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library”

Further images available here website of Nga Maia, a national organisation representing and fostering Maori midwifery.