Kakahu is the general term for a Maori cloak. 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. They 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. Kakahu encompass many forms and materials. The kaitaka, the korowai and the kahu huruhuru are three different styles that demonstrate this variation. Kaitaka are plain cloaks with taniko borders (geometric patterned edges). They were the most prestigious garments at the time of European contact, renowned for their silky sheen and fine weaving. Korowai were popular in the early 19th century. Existing in many forms, they are identifiable by their surface decoration which include hukuhuka (tassels) and ngore (woollen pompoms). Kahu huruhuru (feather cloaks) became popular in the latter half of the 19th century. In earlier cloaks, feathers were typically used in the borders only. Later in the 19th century, they were used across the whole cloak, covering the flax foundation in thick layers.

Physical Description

A cloak made on a flax foundation using finger weft-twining technique during which feathers and wool are attached. The main feathers are peacock and includes kiwi, guineafowl and golden pheasant feathers. The border is decorated with patterns formed using black, brown, red, blue and purple wool.

Local Name

kakahu or kahu huruhuru


This kakahu has connections to Ngati Paoa, a tribe from the North Island and the original documentation states that it was' formerly the property of the friendly chief Wata-Tepa of Miranda'. It is innovative, combining features from each of these three styles of cloaks. It incorporates flax fibres and kiwi feathers together with wool and feathers from the introduced guineafowl, golden pheasant and peacock. Unlike the typical kahu huruhuru, peacock feathers are arranged in a manner similar to that of the hukahuka used to adorn korowai. Another innovative element of this cloak is the woollen edging, which echoes taniko borders. Unlike the kaitaka, however, patterning continues across the body of the cloak.

More Information

  • Collecting Areas

    Pacific Cultures

  • Maker


  • Date Produced


  • Date Collected


  • Locality

    Miranda, Waikato District, New Zealand

  • Medium

    Wool, peacock feathers

  • Technique


  • Support

    Flax (phormium tenax)

  • Cultural Groups

    Ngati Paoa

  • Object/Medium


  • Category

    Indigenous Collections

  • Discipline


  • Type of item


  • Object Measurements

    2000 mm (Length), 1210 mm (Width), 90 mm (Height)

  • Fully Extended

    1200 mm (Length), 1970 mm (Width)
    Measurement From Conservation.

  • References

    [Book] Tamarapa, Awhina. 2011. Whatu Kakahu Maori Cloaks.
    [Catalogue] Davies, Suzanne. 2006. Threading the Commonwealth: textile tradition, culture, trade and politics.

  • Keywords