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Kahu kurī (dog skin cloak)

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Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Although it is a stunning example of its form, the origins of this beautiful kahu kurī (dog skin cloak) are a mystery. Like many early taonga (treasures), there is little to no recorded information on its history before it came into the museum collection. It is hoped that with time and research, the histories and stories of taonga like this kahu kurī can be uncovered and explored. Kahu KurīKahu kurī are made of strips of dog skin with hair attached taken from the kurī (Māori dog). These strips which vary in length, are arranged by colour and sewn ontothe kaupapa (foundation) of the cloak with fine bone needles. The foundation of kahu kurī are woven from muka (New Zealand flax fibre) using a technique called pauku or pukupuku. The pukupuku weaving technique uses the whatu aho pātahi (single-pair weft twining) in close succession to form a thick and heavy protective garment. The awe (dog-hair tassels) that fringe the outside length of some kahu kurī, are taken from the underside of the dog's tail and are similar to the circlet of dog-hair tassels that adorn the necks of taiaha. The ruffled kurupatu (dog-hair collars) are entirely separate to the kaupapa of the cloak and are made by threading separate strips together to make a length of collar that is sewn onto the neck of the finished garment.Prestigious garmentsKahu kurī are prestigious garments possessing great mana (prestige) and were highly-prized heirlooms. Each garment possessed its own personal name and its history was carefully preserved right up to the time it passed out of Māori ownership. Sadly, most now remain anonymous in museum collections around the world. The possession of a kahu kurī immediately identified the owner as a rangatira - someone of prestige and position within the hapu (sub-tribe) or iwi (tribe). These garments were often exchanged between people of rank in recognition of important ceremonial occasions and affirmed the mana of both the giver and the recipient.Types and variationsThere are several different varieties of kahu kurī and some tribal variation in the application of the descriptive terms of these types. Some of the types recorded include tōpuni, ihupuni, awarua, kahuwaero, mahiti, and puahi. However, the construction technique remains essentially the same.

Ngā whakamārama -

  • Title

    Kahu kurī (dog skin cloak)

  • Maker


  • Date made

    1700 - 1900

  • Subject

    dogskin, muka (fibre), dog hair, red ocher, cloaks, kahu kurī, weaving, hand sewing, whatu aho pātahi, tanning, twining, Canis lupus familiaris, Te Puawaitanga: 1500 - 1800, Te Huringa I: 1800 - 1900, New Zealand

  • Rights

    All Rights Reserved

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  • Location

    Cable Street, Wellington

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Whare taonga | Organisation

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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