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Whatu Kakahu: Maori Cloaks - Treasured weaving techniques detailed in beautiful new book

Whatu Kakahu: Maori Cloaks is a beautifully illustrated new book that hopes to help open the storeroom doors of the Maori collections held in our national museum, home to the largest collection of kakahu (Maori cloaks) in the world.

The heavily illustrated new book grew out of a wananga (school of higher learning) in 2007 and is a celebration and a tribute to all those who keep the art and spirit of weaving alive, according to its editor Awhina Tamarapa.
“The concept was to help bring these taonga (treasures) out into the world, rather than leaving them isolated in the storeroom drawers,” says Awhina – who is herself a weaver and who began work as a curator with the Museum in 1996.

“Arapata Hakiwai, the museum’s specialist Maori scholar, initiated the idea while he was director of the Matauranga Maori team. It was then raised with Te Roopu Raranga Whatu o Aotearoa, the national Maori weavers’ collective, whose leadership suggested a wananga as a way for all the interested parties to work together.”

“The conference was held over three days and led to some of the book’s themes being chosen, based on their importance to the weavers who had gathered. It was also decided that forty of the more rare and precious kakahu from the Museum’s collections would be specially featured in the planned book with descriptions of the techniques and materials used and the stories of their often remarkable provenance.”

The cloaks that readers can see in the finished book are a combination selected by the weavers wananga, the contributing writers, and the book’s editor.

With over 300 new colour images taken by photographer Norman Heke, and essays by five prominent practitioners and experts, the book also includes detailed close ups and diagrams of some of the rarer techniques used in the weaving for adornment and finishing which guarantees it will be of great interest to all who are interested in textiles and traditional weaving techniques. An exhibition based on these themes is also in planning for 2012.

The publication of Whatu Kakahu: Maori Cloaks will be celebrated as part of the Weavers’ National Hui at Maketu Marae, Kawhia, this coming Labour Weekend. The book will be available to purchase there and will also be available from bookstores and libraries nationwide and online from www.tepapastore.co.nz

A public exhibition of kakahu will also show at Te Papa from 9 June until 21 October, 2012.