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 Textile Animal / Wool Textile Animal / ?. Processes: Finger Woven / ?. Colour: Brown, with reddish border. Dimensions: W = 1610 mm L = 1180 mm Field Collector: Probably Johann Reinhold Forster and/or George Forster 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) Other Owners: Probably Johann Reinhold Forster and George Forster; probably from late January 1776, Ashmolean Museum PRM Source: Ashmolean Museum 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] This information remains the same in the 2019 edition of this publication. [MOBB 6/11/2019]

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]

Research notes: Unlike all the other relevant 'Forster' material this cloak does not appear to have been listed in 'Appendix: Description of Individual Garments' of The Maori Mantle, by H. Ling Roth, Halifax: Bankfield Museum (1923). [JC 12 3 1999]

Referred to on page 322 of ‘The Cambridge University Collection of Maori Artefacts, Made on Captain Cook’s First Voyage’, by Wilfred Shawcross, in Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol. LXXIX, no. 3 (September), pp. 305–48. Shawcross cites PRM 1886.1.1132 (and 1886.1.1137) as comparable pieces to a Cook-voyage Maori cloak in the Cambridge collections (CUMAA D24.80). [JC 28 6 2002]

This cloak has not been designated a Forster number. At one time it was thought to be Forster number 103 (dog skin coat - New Zealand), but there is no clear documentation to make this attribution definite. A fragment of a white square label with the only visible number being a printed O, was found on the corner of the cloak. This is definitely not a Forster label, nor is it a Duncan label. It could be another collector's number label, as see above. However, on 1886.1.1134 there is a label identical to the one in question, which has the same number on it as its original Forster label. [NM 12/3/97; JC 16 6 2011]

As previously argued by Nicolette Meister (see above), it is not possible to say with certainty that this cloak is Forster 103. [JC 25 2 2001]

In 1978, David Simmons recorded the holdings of Māori material in a number of museums in Europe and North America including, in May 1978, the Pitt Rivers Museum. (For copies of his notes and related correspondence, see RDF: Researchers: Simmons.) In 1996, Simmons put together the ‘draft catalogues’ he had prepared, depositing copies in, at least, the National Library of New Zealand / Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa and the British Museum. The ‘draft catalogue’ of the Māori material in the PRM, which includes photocopies of some of the relevant catalogue index cards and annotations supplied by PRM assistant curator Lynne Williamson in 1982, was included in ‘Draft Catalogues of Maori Material in English Museums II. Prepared by David Simmons from records made in 1978… Compiled in Auckland in 1996’. It is now widely accepted that Simmons’s assertions about the provenance and history of individual Māori objects are not to be trusted without further evidence and/or documentation. Nevertheless, as the entries in this document have been referred in the literature, in July 2016 I obtained from the British Museum scans of the pages devoted to the PRM’s collections (numbered by hand as pages 43 to 62), printing out a copy for the RDF. For the entry for this object, see page 44. [JC 28 7 2016]