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Object: Kahu kiwi (kiwi feather cloak)

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Title Kahu kiwi (kiwi feather cloak)
Production Unknown (weaver), 1800-1900, New Zealand
Medium summary muka, brown kiwi feathers
Materials muka, feather, harakeke
Classification kahu kiwi, cloaks
Technique twining
Dimensions Overall: 1700mm (Length) x 1500mm (Width) x 60mm (Depth)
Approximate: 1500mm (Width) x 1250mm (Length)
Credit line Purchased date unknown
Registration number ME001378

This large Brown kiwi (Apteryx sp.) feather cloak is made from brown and white (albino) kiwi feathers woven in bold alternating stripes down the whole length. The inside consists of yellow and black vertical lines of dyed muka (flax fibre: Phormium tenax) woven into the kaupapa (main body) of the cloak.

In the graphic representations and descriptions by Päkehä artists in the first half of the nineteenth century, feather cloaks do not appear. For example, the British artist George French Angas, who in 1844 created a large and representative number of paintings, of which 114 Mäori subjects were dressed in cloaks, did not paint a single kähu huruhuru (feather cloak). This implies that the present form of feather cloaks did not exist. It was not until the latter half of the nineteenth century that feathered cloaks suddenly appeared when photographic recording became fashionable. While their actual origin is unknown, by the 1880s they had become the most coveted prestige garments. The feather cloak introduced a new era of experimentation and colour into weaving, which became more pronounced when feathers from introduced birds like peacocks began to be incorporated.

Augustus Hamilton, Director of History at the Colonial Museum between 1903 and 1913, photographed Härata Te Kiore, a highly ranked woman of the Whanganui River tribes, wearing the cloak in a carefully arranged natural looking setting. Te Kiore was a niece to the Whanganui fighting chiefs, Te Hä Marama and Te Kurukaanga.

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