Point of Interest

Maori Figure in a Kaitaka Cloak

New Zealand / The Pacific

Māori made prestigious kaitaka during the 1700s and until the mid 1800s. These chiefly cloaks were known as parawai in Whanganui.The magnificence of kaitaka lay in their extremely fine weaving, lustrous sheen, and intricate borders of tāniko (geometric patterning). The sheen came from the high-quality muka (flax fibre) used to make them. The borders provided a striking contrast with the rest of the cloak, which was unadorned.Early European collectors, as well as Māori, coveted kaitaka because of their beauty and status. But with increasing European influences, the form began to decline. Few remain today.Weaving a kaitaka could take as long as 2 years – a painstaking task.First, the weaver extracted and processed the muka from specially selected varieties of harakeke (New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax). They then wove this fibre, with its silky texture and golden sheen, into a remarkably fine and even foundation.

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