25 January 2008

Cloak Of Feathers


Wear your courage as a cloak of feathers,
braid your hair; daughter of a pedigree as
noble as the nose that wears a rub of many
greetings – see yourself as where we link
our legacies. Sons and daughters share a
common heritage – all aware of histories,
each a jewel to polish, ornament to wear.
I hang from your neck pounamu – ancient
and revered, the Mother of beginnings...
© 23 December 2007, I. D. Carswell
Pounamu was normally suspended from thin leather or plaited flax; metal chains do not harmonise with the stone. It was traditional for a piece to be worn level with the cavity where the two collarbones meet above the chest.

Feather Cloak (kahu huruhuru) - Of all the traditional garments of the Maori, it is the feather cloak which is the most highly prized as a family and personal heirloom. The base of the cloak was made from flax fibre (muka) which had been washed, bleached to almost white and softened. The fibres would then be rolled together until a long yarn was formed, which was then woven into the large rectangle, shaped at the shoulders and hips. Onto this was fastened the feathers, the most prized ones being those of the huia and kiwi ( especially the rare white albino kiwi). Sometimes the cloak would be fringed with
taniko or white kiwi feathers.