Maori Cloaks & Their Heritage

The origins of Māori weaving lies in the origins of the world itself. Uncover the whakapapa (genealogy) of this art form, as told in the Māori creation story, and discover why women are its main guardians. Harakeke (New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax) was the vital discovery of these early Māori. To make garments from its leaves, they initially adapted the raranga plaiting technique, used throughout the Pacific to make mats and baskets.
Kakahu Korowai by Dame Rangimarie Hetet

Kakahu Korowai by Dame Rangimarie Hetet

Kaitaka are the fine flax cloaks of chiefs, made from top-quality muka (flax fibre) and bordered with tāniko (geometric patterning). Woven into them is a story of great artistry and innovation.

Kaitaka are the fine flax cloaks of chiefs, made from top-quality muka (flax fibre) and bordered with tāniko (geometric patterning). Woven into them is a story of great artistry and innovation.

Korowai (cloak with decorative tassels), 1800 s, New Zealand. Maker unknown. Gift of Alexander Turnbull, 1913. Te Papa

Korowai (cloak with decorative tassels), 1800 s, New Zealand. Maker unknown. Gift of Alexander Turnbull, 1913. Te Papa

Apihai Te Kawau, principal chief of Ngati Whatua, and his nephew Te Rewiti, Orakei, 1844

Apihai Te Kawau, principal chief of Ngati Whatua, and his nephew Te Rewiti, Orakei, 1844

Kukupa Tirikatene wearing the Tirikatene family kahu kiwi cloak, 2008. May 2012, Te Papa

Kukupa Tirikatene wearing the Tirikatene family kahu kiwi cloak, 2008. May 2012, Te Papa

This bold, colourful korowai uses the finished materials of candlewick, cotton and wool in preference to the natural materials of traditional weaving. Although the korowai was probably woven around the 1930s, its brightly coloured feathers and wool decorations look contemporary.

This bold, colourful korowai uses the finished materials of candlewick, cotton and wool in preference to the natural materials of traditional weaving. Although the korowai was probably woven around the 1930s, its brightly coloured feathers and wool decorations look contemporary.

Te Kiore, Harata or Te Waepae, 1903 - 1913, Te Papa

Te Kiore, Harata or Te Waepae, 1903 - 1913, Te Papa

[Pipi Haerehuka (Te Ärani), Ngäti Whakaue]

[Pipi Haerehuka (Te Ärani), Ngäti Whakaue]

Kaitaka huaki (cloak with double täniko borders)  1820-1840

Kaitaka huaki (cloak with double täniko borders) 1820-1840

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