17. Kākahu - Clothing

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Magnificent cloaks like these ones are worn by high-ranking people. Take a moment to appreciate the intricate patterns and designs, and the softly glowing fibres. Some kākahu are decorated with feathers or tufts of dogskin from the native kurī. They are treasured garments and can take several years to complete.

Weaving is called whatu and garments are made by finger twining rather than with equipment like a loom or spinning wheel. The first cord is strung between two turuturu or pegs that are placed in the ground or leant against a wall. Symbolically the threads of these cloaks connect a wearer to their tūpuna or ancestors.

To the right of the case you can see a cloak in production, strung between two pegs – this particular cloak is called a kaitaka. The patterned border that begins this cloak is called tāniko. Tāniko is quite stiff so only decorates the border of a cloak, then the body of the cloak commences – these are woven as one piece.

These cloaks are made from muka which is made from harakeke, New Zealand flax, an extremely important resource for Māori. Muka is strong, supple, and silky, and gives these kākahu their particular beauty.

Muka has to be prepared. First the weaver scrapes the outside layer from the flax leaf with a shell then the fibre is rolled, soaked, and pounded. The fibres are then hand rubbed to soften them. The quality of muka reflects the quality of the cloak.

Head to stop 18, the small treasures behind the cloaks.

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