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Korowai whakahekeheke (cloak with vertical lines of decorative elements)

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Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

This diminutive yet regal cloak was presented to Te Papa by Jean Gilmer, and was one of two cloaks presented to Te Papa by the descendants of Richard John Seddon and his wife, Louisa Jane, on 9 June 2006, Seddon, a Liberal Party MP, was New Zealand's Prime Minister form 1893, leading the country until his sudden death in June 1906. Miss Gilmer is the daughter of Dame Elizabeth Gilmer and grandaughter of Richard and Louisa Seddon. Whe wrote that the cloak was placed on Louisa Seddon's casket to: "Convey love and respect for her life of service. At my Grandmother's death in 1931 my mother Dame Elizabeth Gilmer, held the korowhai [sic] in her care until her death in 1960 when it came into my care. Now it is the wish of my mother's family that it is given into your care." ConstructionThis cloak is an interesting mix of styles, incorporating the vertical arrangements of hukahuka of a traditional korowai, with alternating rows of kiwi feathers fringed with a lower border of kererū feathers. The kaupapa (foundation) of the cloak is in muka (New Zealand flax fibre), woven in whatu aho rua (two-pair weft twining) technique. There are five whenu (warp threads) per centimetre, with 8 mm spacing between each aho (weft thread) row. There are no aho poka (shaping rows). The bottom of the cloak has a selvage commencement and the top has a three-ply whiri (plait) that discards the whenu to the front as it is worked across the top. A twist of yelloy and undyed muka has been sewn on the back at the top after completion. The feathers are brown kiwi (Apteryx sp) from the body of the bird, with the green neck and white breast feathers of the kererū (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) at the lower border. there are five rows of hukahuka, dyed black, alternating between six rows of kiwi feathers. Some of the hukahuka have deteriorated over time. This text is based on an excerpt from Whatu Kakahu|Maori Cloaks (second edition), edited by Awhina Tamarapa, © Te Papa Press 2019.

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  • Title

    Korowai whakahekeheke (cloak with vertical lines of decorative elements)

  • Maker


  • Date made

    20th Century

  • Subject

    Kiwi, Apteryx sp., New Zealand Pigeon, Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae novaeseelandiae, muka (fibre), feather, Korowai whakahekeheke, cloaks, twining, Te Huringa I: 1800 - 1900, New Zealand, Dame Elizabeth Gilmer, Jean Gilmer

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  • Location

    Cable Street, Wellington

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

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Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

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  • Text adapted with permission from Te Papa and Digital NZ

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