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Object: Kahu koati

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Title Kahu koati
Production Unknown (weaver), 1870, New Zealand
Medium summary Muka, angora goat hair, traditional black dyes, wool yarn
Materials muka, wool, angora wool, dye
Classification kaitaka, cloaks
Technique twining, taniko, hand sewing
Dimensions Overall: 1110mm (Length) x 1510mm (Width/Depth)
Overall: 1500mm (Width) x 1150mm (Length)
Credit line Purchased 1905
Registration number ME001154

The outstanding features of this cloak are its crossover design and materials, which put it in a class of its own. The richly elaborate borders of taniko (geometric patterning) and the rows of silken fur – now known to be mohair – are exceptional. The angora goat, the source of the mohair, was introduced to New Zealand in the 1860s, giving some indication of when the cloak may have been made.


The kaupapa (foundation) is muka (flax fibre), and unusually for a kaitaka, weft-twined in whatu aho patahi (single-pair weft twining). There are six whenu (vertical threads, or warp) per centimetre, with 8 mm spacing between each aho (horizontal row, or weft). Another unusual feature is that the aho (horizontal threads) are twined in an anticlockwise direction with a Z-twist, rather than an S-twist in a clockwise direction. Further research will need to be undertaken to find out why.

The aho poka (darts) are three sets of simple elliptical inserts: three rows, 40 mm from the bottom; four rows, 440 mm from the top; and four rows, 70 mm from the top.

Taniko borders

The lower border of taniko (geometric patterning) shows greater wear than its counterpart beneath. On close inspection of the reverse side, where the threads have come away, one can see the passive aho used for keeping consistent tension. These tensioning strands are fine two-ply natural muka that have undergone miro, or hand-plying.

An ornamental two-ply wool twist in pink and purple delineates the two lower taniko borders. The edge of the taniko also has an ornamental twist worked in with the finishing aho, as does the taniko around the top of the cloak, which features the lozenge-shaped patiki (flounder) design. The side edges of the taniko are natural and dyed black muka, forming aronui (triangular) patterns in the haehae, or parallel lines.

This text is based on an excerpt from chapter 6 of Whatu Kakahu|Maori Cloaks, edited by Awhina Tamarapa, © Te Papa Press 2011.

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