Flax cloak with dogskin tags [JU 25/11/2013]

Place details: OCEANIA POLYNESIA. New Zealand. Cultural Group: Maori Local Name: Unknown. Materials: Flax (NZ) Plant / Dog Hair Animal Textile / Wool Textile Animal / ?. Processes: Finger Woven / ?. Colour: Brown, with reddish border. Dimensions: W = 1610 mm L = 1180mm When Collected: Probably 1773 or 1774 (between 26 March and 11 May 1773, or between 18 May and 7 June 1773, or between 3 November and 25 December 1773; or between 16 October and 10 November 1774) Acquired: Transferred 19 April 1886 Other Numbers: Forster 103 ?

KEYWORD: Cloak / CLASS: Clothing / Textile / ?.

Object description: The body of the cloak is made from muka twined in whatu aho rua technique (double-pair weft-twining), apart from the 100th aho row, which is in whatu aho patahi (single-pair weft-twining). The cloak was worn as a paepaeroa, with the aho rows vertical. There are 7 whenu warps per cm with a 6-7 mm spacing between each aho weft row. The cloak was started with a 'thrum commencement' (see page 88 of 'Whatu: The Enclosing Threads', by Margery Blackman, in Whatu Kākahu / Māori Cloaks, edited by Awhina Tamarapa (Wellington: Te Papa Press, 2011), pp. 75-93). Because of the way that the red woollen thread is woven into the cloak, it is possible to tell that construction began at the edge furthest from the wool insertion. Shaping rows, aho poka, are present. There are two clear wedge inserts present: one near the side furthest from the commencement (1240 mm from this edge) and one near the centre (790 mm from the commencement edge). A third set of aho poka rows are present ,which do not form a clear insert - these are approximately 40 mm from the commencement. The bottom of the cloak (the left edge as constructed) is finished with a twisted three-ply braid of dyed muka. Each ply in turn is held by a successive aho row, so that each ply is attached to the cloak every third row. The muka used to make the cord is natural in colour, and also dyed black and brown, giving a variegated effect. The top of the cloak (the right side as constructed) is finished with a fine plaited border made of dyed muka. In some areas the colours are mixed, so that plies of black, brown, and naturally coloured muka produce a variegated effect to the plaited edge. Tags of dog skin are attached to the upper corners of the cloak. The dog skin strips are approximately 24 cm in length, and are folded in half and tied to the cloak with a length of plied muka cord. The cord is threaded through the body of the cloak, a single length being used to hold all the strips in place. [JU 25/11/2013]

Publications history, trails & websites: Listed according to the 'Forster list' numbering system in 'From the Islands of the South Seas 1773-4: An Exhibition of a Collection Made on Capn. Cook's Second Voyage of Discovery by J. R. Forster—A Short Guide (Oxford: Pitt Rivers Museum, no date [1970]): '103. A Dogskin coat. Actually of fine flax with two brown borders and white strips of dogskin at two corners. Width: 147 cm.' [JC 12 3 1999, 15 6 2011, 28 8 2015]

If Forster 103 listed as number 15 under ‘New Zealand...Cloaks’ on page 171 of 'Artificial Curiosities': Being an Exposition of Native Manufactures Collected on the Three Pacific Voyages of Captain James Cook, R.N. at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, January 18, 1978 - August 31, 1978 on the Occasion of the Bicentennial of the European Discovery of the Hawaiian Islands by Captain Cook - January 18, 1778 (Bernice P. Bishop Museum Special Publication 65), by Adrienne L. Kaeppler (Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1978): '14-19. Six cloaks, Oxford (102-107). Evidence: Forster collection. Second voyage. Literature: Gathercole, n.d. (1970) [see above]'. [JC 29 5 2000]

Published as part of the Forster Collection on a dedicated website at www.prm.ox.ac.uk/forster (from February 2001). [JC 7 7 2005]

Discussed and illustrated (detail only) on pages 65-6 of 'Te Ao Tawhito / Te Ao Hou: Entwined Threads of Tradition and Innovation', by Maureen Lander, in Awhina Tamarapa (ed.), Whatū Kākahu / Māori Cloaks. Wellington: Te Papa Press (2011), pp. 60-73, 183-4: 'Māori desire for red cloth was well documented by early European voyagers, and it is enlightening to come across tangible examples of the ingenious ways in which weavers recycled coveted samples of wool into their own garments. In the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, two cloaks [1886.1.1132, 1886.1.1135] thought to have been collected by J. R. Forster and his son George during Cook's second voyage (1772-75) are of interest. Each has small additions of red wool, indicating that Māori weavers had unravelled textiles obtained from the first voyage and reused the yarns in their cloaks by the time the Forsters arrived.... The second Pitt Rivers cloak, believed to be #103 from George Forster's "Catalogue of Curiosities sent to Oxford", has a single strand of red wool decorating what would otherwise be a plain kaupapa, or main body of the cloak. The cloak-maker may have liked the wavy pattern of the unravelled wool and accordingly retained this effect by twining it in and out of the aho to form a pattern known as pāheke, which means "trickle" or "flow". The two ends of the strand are secured into succeeding aho (weft rows), demonstrating that the wool was probably included during the process of making the cloak rather than stitched in later, unlike the first cloak. The addition of pāheke increased dramatically over the following decades as wool was embraced by cloak-makers and used to enhance the visual impact of their garments.' Caption to illustration on page 66: 'Red wool thread looped into the foundation of a cloak in the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford'. [JC 31 12 2012]

For an account of the history of the collection of which this is part, see 'The Cook-Voyage Collections at Oxford, 1772–1775', by Jeremy Coote, in Jeremy Coote (ed.), Cook-Voyage Collections of 'Artificial Curiosities' in Britain and Ireland, 1771–2015 (MEG Occasional Paper No. 5), Oxford: Museum Ethnographers Group (2015), pp. 74–122. (Copy in RDF: Researchers: Jeremy Coote (Cook-Voyage Collections).) [JC 9 6 2016]