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Topic: The Tirikatene family cloak - a political heritage

Is part of topic Stories of Maori Cloaks

This kahu kiwi (kiwi-feather cloak) has honoured successive generations of the Tirikātene family and their achievements in politics and education. 

A gift from Rātana

In 1932, Eruera Tirikātene (1895–1967), of the tribe Ngāi Tahu, became the first member of the Rātana religious and political movement to be elected to the New Zealand Parliament.
To mark his accomplishment, the founder of this Māori movement, Tahupōtiki Rātana (1873–1939), gave Eruera this cloak. It was one of several special items that he gifted to Eruera to acknowledge his support and work for the Rātana cause.

From one Parliamentarian to another

The cloak passed to Eruera’s daughter, the Honourable Whetū Tirikātene-Sullivan (1932–2011), a long-serving Labour parliamentarian.

Whetū said of the cloak, ‘The kākahu has a very honourable history. A history that is very much a part of the whole of Māoridom and our thrust to be recognised as the tangata whenua [first people] of this country, where we could live in harmony, Māori and Pākehā.’

Ceremonial cloak

Whetū passed the cloak to her younger brother, Te Kukupa. ‘When I wear it,’ he said, ‘I feel very humble, yet very proud – proud of where it has come from … It not only gives me warmth outside but I feel very warm inside.’

Kukupa has worn the cloak on various important occasions, including his farewell from Manukau Institute of Technology, where he was a senior Māori leader. He also wore it at the ceremonial opening of the Ngāi Tahu tribe’s exhibition at Te Papa, where he was one of the kaumātua (elders in residence).

The mana (prestige) of this cloak comes from its maker, from each giver and recipient, and from the occasions at which it has been worn.

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