||MHS (unaccessioned) Textiles
||Light and dark brown kiwi feathers. There are the remains of a black woollen plait at the top. The remains of three black and red tassels at the top. The back is natural and brown traditional muka weaving. The side panels seem to show that the feathers have been woven sideways. The bottom has a very narrow plaited hem. The sides are whipped with a dark brown muka thread.
Label with the cloak:
Kahu Kiwi, M?ori Cloak of Kiwi Feathers, c.1875
Pam Saunders, Textile Manager, 20 October 2011, discusses how it was found: I only know that the cloak was in the old Archives [Brayshaw's place, 73-75 Howick Road]. Kevin Andrews [MHS Committee member] told me that he had seen some kiwi feathers and thought that there was a cloak in a box in the Archives which were at that time housed in Howick Road. I asked him to get it to us so he did and we found the cloak folded up in a brown carton and the other articles [kete and muff]. There was no documentation with them [so the label, above, must have been added after it came to Pam]. I asked Valerie how to deal with the cloak and we rolled it up with wadding, sheeting and put it away.
MHS minute book 9, page 63, dated 27 August 1984, has an inwards letter (see notes) from the National Museum regarding Maori Cloaks. "The Committee decided that no action is to be taken with the Maori Cloak at this time."
Possibly donated by Annie Carswell c.1962 (see Jacoba Glenny emails in notes).
This kahu kiwi is made from muka-flax fibre, feathers, and a tassel of red, and black wool. It combines traditional, and newer materials, to create a traditional article of clothing.
The feathers are individually woven in, and can be seen here in panels of lighter, and darker feathers.
Muka is derived from the sword shaped leaves of the flax plant (Phormium tenax), an evergreen plant found mainly in swamp, or low lying areas around New Zealand. Muka is made by stripping the outer layer of the flax leaf with a shell, often a mussel shell. The fibre was then washed, and pounded with a muka patu, a blunt stone, or wood club, to leave a fibrous thread that was silky, and soft to touch. The thread was then bound together to form a sturdy chord before weaving.
Feather Cloaks do not appear in any of the images or descriptions by Pakeha artists in the first half of the nineteenth century. The British artist George French Angas, in 1844 created a large, and representative number of paintings, including 114 Maori subjects dressed in cloaks. He did not paint a single feather cloak. This suggests that the present form of feather cloak did not exist at that time. It was not until the latter half of the nineteenth century that they suddenly appeared, coinciding with the development photography that recorded them being worn.
While their exact origin is unknown, by the 1880s kahu kiwi had become the most coveted prestige garments.
Cloak weaving was always done from left to right with the work suspended between two upright turuturu- weaving sticks, fixed into the ground. For large cloaks, two pairs were necessary to keep the edge being worked at the correct height.