KUKI REKA KANI

Māori inspired cookie cutters to help Kaumātua connect with their heritage. 

Kuki Reka Kani are 6 unique cookie cutters, designed for the Rauawaawa Kaumātua Charitable Trust, that imprint modern Māori designs onto the dough. The concept, was initiated to help Kaumātua/older persons with dementia, connect with their heritage through cooking therapy in a social and fun way.

 

Rauawaawa Kaumātua Charitable Trust is a non-profit registered charity who has serviced the needs of over 600 Kaumātua in the Hamilton area for just over 22 years whilst being based at a site called “Te Puna o Te Ora” that has served Maoridom for more than 78 years. The vision of the Trust is to “enhance the quality of life and well-being of Kaumātua” by providing a range of culturally focussed and accessible health, education, welfare, housing and social support as well as recreational community-based activities and services for them.

 

Rauawaawa Kaumātua Charitable Trust needed a method to generate an income to help Kaumātua achieve their aspirations and overcome the challenges that many face.

Cooking therapy is often used by care homes to provide a safe, relaxed and sociable activity for those with dementia. An obvious gap was the absence of any Māori designs that would enhance the presence of Māori culture within such a setting. The design of the Kuki Kani was planned to address a number of factors, including identifying with the guidance of Kaumātua, appropriate Māori designs that could be used in the context of food. We undertook several drafts during this consultation phase before finalising the imagery of the Koru, Pāua, Kete, Hei-Matau and Pikorua (both the single and double twist) as the traditional Māori designs that would be used. Inclusion of these designs in modern baking methods, acknowledge Māori culture, enhances the connection to whakapapa and creates a more culturally inclusive environment for Kaumātua with dementia.

The cutters are designed to cut through the dough and leave a pattern imprinted on the dough in one easy push. This makes the Kuki Kani gentle on both elderly, arthritic hands as well as providing a large, soft grip for children’s hands to hold when using in the kitchen. The patterned designs are drafted to reflect the look of the chiselled traditional Māori wood carvings. This also helps to release the dough from the cutter by having draft on the patterns.

 

The dowel in the handle is made from aluminium, which adds weight to the handle, meaning that the Kaumātua don't need to push as hard to cut through the dough, assisting arthritic hands and wrists. 

We worked with the bakers at Rauawaawa to watch their methods and process of prepping the benches, dough and utensils to create homemade cookies in a commercial kitchen. By standing alongside them, we were able to develop our designs to work easily with both professional pastry chefs and amateur bakers at home.

The slight flexibility of the polypropylene material of the cutter allows the edges of the cutter to splay outwards slightly when pushed with the handle. This creates both an air gap and draft to let the dough to peel away from the cutter, leaving it stuck to the bench. The cutting edges are pushed through the dough first before the pattern can be pushed into the dough for printing. The polypropylene and aluminium create easy cleaning and hygienic food surfaces and also enables the cutters to be thrown into the dishwasher. This tough material makes the cutters durable and non-stick.

Colours of each of the Kuki Kani reflect sacred places of Aotearoa to the Māori; Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington Harbour), Tongariro, Mount Taranaki, Lake Taupō, Hakarimata Scenic Reserve and Kapowairua (Spirits Bay.) These colours compliment each other whilst also assist Kaumātua connect to their heritage and iwi.

The cookies and cookie cutters made, packaged and sold provide a huge sense of success for Kaumātua belonging to the Rauawaawa community whilst also helping to raise funds to realise their aspirations and improve their health and well-being.