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 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 ? PRM Image: 70.F1.10 Collections Digital Reference Photo 12/09/2013; CS113.4

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]

Probably the cloak listed on page 7 of the manuscript 'Catalogue of Curiosities Sent to Oxford', thought to be in George Forster's hand, as no. 103 under the heading 'New Zeeland': 'a Dogskin coat'. [NMM / JC 29 5 2000]

Duncan Catalogue entry - South Sea Islands etc 236-257. Specimens of New Zealand matting, and cloths of flax.'

List of Anthropological objects transferred from the Ashmolean to the Pitt Rivers' museum 1886. New Zealand. Australian, S. Pacific Islands etc. [Vellum volumes] Volume II: Catalogue of the Australian New Zealand and Polynesian Collections in the Ashmolean Museum 1132 A New Zealand cloak, or mat, made of flax in the usual manner, but entirely without any pendants on the outside. Two of the sides have [insert] narrow [end insert] plaited borders of the same material dyed black and brown; and at two of the corners are suspended several thongs of white skin, perhaps dog skin, from which the hair has disappeared. Length 4 feet 1 inch width 5 feet. Perhaps Captain Cook's collection, 1772-1774 (number label lost), given by Reinhold Forster, Esq. Or possibly either belonging to the things given by Captn Beechey, Captain Gambier, or J.T. Bigge, Esq: but probably not by the Rev. A. Bloxam. M.A. 1826, as all the things given by him came [insert] seem to have come [end insert] from the Sandwich Islands, as see M.S. list of Benefactors 1757-1829.p.24. Printed catalogue 1836. p.185 No. 236-257, and note underneath. (Brought from the Storeroom in the Old Clarendon Building 1881)

Additional entry in Vellum volume II - ? if this is Cooks No. 103. the label having come off.

Additional entry in Vellum volume II - Trans. to Anthrop. Mus. April 19th, 1886. (1132).

Stuck in vellum volume [before page 4 of volume I] - Captain Cook's Collection Trans. to Anthrop Collection from the Ashmolean April 19th 1886

Ashmolean label handwritten by Edward Evans, Assistant Keeper, shortly before the transfer to the Pitt Rivers Museum 1885-6: '1132. New Zealand Cloak, or Mat. Made of the native flax plant (Phormium tenax, Forst.) Of fine workmanship, and ornamented with strips of Dog's skin. Probably belonging to Captain Cook's collection, (the number having been lost), given by Reinhold Forster, Esq. Or possibly belonging either to the things given by Captain Gambier, Captain Beechey, or J.L. Bigge, Esq. as see printed catalogue of 1836 p. 185, No 236-257, and note below it. But I should say that it could not possibly belong to the Bloxam collection, given to Ashmolean in 1826; as all his things appear to have been got at the Sandwich Islands, for a list of which see M.S. List of Benefactors, 1757-1829, p. 24. I should rather believe it belongs to Cook's, and that the number label has come off. For particular description of the way this kind of cloth is manufactured by hand see Cook's 1st voyage. vol: III, p.p. 50 & 51. (From the storeroom in the old Clarendon, 1881).'

Pre-PRM label (small white with blank print) - '1132'. [JC 16 6 2011]

Pre-PRM label (small blue with blank print) - 'Ashmolean Museum'. [JC 16 6 2011]

Ashmolean Accession book entry - Objects transferred from the Ashmolean Museum to the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1886 or later: '1132. New Zealand, Maori. Cloak without pendants with white skin thongs at two corners. ?Capt Cook coll.?103. ?Reinhold Forster.'

Display history: Possibly displayed at the Ashmolean Museum between January 1776 and April 1886 (details not known). [JC 7 7 2005]

Possibly displayed at the PRM from 1886 to 1970 (details not known). [JC 7 7 2005]

Exhibited 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 at the Pitt Rivers Museum, from 1 May 1970 to late 1971 (for details of accompanying publication, see below). Presumably displayed with 1886.1.1133, 1886.1.1134, 1886.1.1136, and 1886.1.1137. The caption (here transcribed from the original glass plate negative) reads: Flax cloaks of various forms, made by "finger weaving" of scutched flax fibre. Forster could have had these specimens in mind when he wrote that their dress is "encompassed with borders, worked into various patterns of black, brown and white, ornamented on the corners with pieces of dog-skin". The bottom specimen [? 1886.1.1134] may be from Dusky Sound. [JP 20/9/2004; JC 15 6 2011]

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]

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]