Maori cloaks or kakahu encompass many styles, forms and materials. On arrival to New Zealand, the ancestors of the Maori were forced to experiment with new materials to produce garments suitable for the harsher environmental conditions. Primarily functional in purpose, kakahu protected from the cold and rain. Kakahu also signified the status of the wearer. Maori weaving continues to be a highly specialised practice involving tikanga (protocols), rituals and knowledge. Skills are primarily passed on through generations of women. Kahu huruhuru (feather cloaks) are a style of kakahu that became popular in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Feathers had previously been incorporated into the weaving of cloaks, usually in the borders. During this period, however, they took on new significance in the overall design, covering the flax foundation in thick layers. This cloak incorporates feathers from the kotuku (white heron or Ardea alba modesta) and the now extinct huia (Heteralocha acutirostris).

Physical Description

A flax foundation made using finger weft-twining technique during which feathers are attached. Feathers cover the entire surface with squares of black and white feathers forming a chequered pattern.

Local Name

Kahu huruhuru


In Maori culture huia were highly valued and indicative of an individual's status. The feathers were worn as personal adornment, and the iridescent feathers here in the dark sections are possibly tui (Parson Bird or Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae). The combination of alternating squares of black and white feathers is a striking pattern. The foundation of this cloak is made from harakeke (flax, Phormium tenax). Flax fibre or muka is extracted from the harakeke and woven using whatu, a finger weft-twining technique. This forms the kaupapa, the foundation structure of the cloak, and the feathers are attached to the surface of the cloak during the whatu process.

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