Cloak of fibre obtained from the cabbage tree, previously ornamented with feathers, of which only the quills remain. [JC 7 4 2011] [JU 13/12/2013]
Place details: OCEANIA POLYNESIA. New Zealand. Dusky Bay (Sound) . Cultural Group: Maori Local Name: kahu huruhuru Materials: Flax (NZ) Plant ? / Bird Feather / Bird Skin / ?. Processes: Finger Woven / ?. Colour: Brown Dimensions: W = 1880 mm Field Collector: Johann Reinhold Forster and/or George Forster When Collected: Possibly 19 April 1773; certainly 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: Johann Reinhold Forster and George Forster; from late January 1776, Ashmolean Museum PRM Source: Ashmolean Museum Acquired: Transferred 19 April 1886 Other Numbers: Forster 102 PRM Image: 70.; CS113.4
KEYWORD: Cloak / Mat / CLASS: Clothing / Textile / ?.
Object description: The cloak is made from a coarse textured fibre, obtained from the cabbage tree (ti kouka, Cordyline australis). The cloak is twined in the whato aho patahi technique (single-pair weft-twining) with 3-4 whenu warps per cm. The aho weft rows are between 10 and 12 mm apart. The commencement is at the top of the cloak. Each whenu warp bundle of fibres has been folded over a single horizontal cord, and held in place with the first aho row. Each folded bundle forms one whenu warp thread. The top has been finished with a length of cord made from twisted NZ flax, which has been looped through the whatu weft just under the commencement cord at intervals of 2-4 cm and tied. The bottom edge of the cloak has been finished with a fringe. This is partly formed from the ends of the whenu warps, but additional bundles of fibres have been added to the fringe, doubled over and held by the last aho weft, so that each bundle of fibres forms two additional fringe elements. These added elements form a decorative top edge to the fringe. The side edges of the cloak have been finished with plaits made from bundles of the same plant fibre as used for the warps, held in place by the aho weft rows. The remains of feather shafts are present on the cloak. Many of these are associated with fragments of bird skin. These appear to have been tied to lengths of plied fibre of fibre running parallel to the whenu warps, and added, as Ling Roth noted, every 8 to 12 warps, or closer together in some areas (see page 87 of The Maori Mantle, by H. Ling Roth (Halifax: Bankfield Museum, 1923)). Some skin strips , however, have been bent in half and are held by the aho wefts, and some insertions appear to have been just feathers, without associated skin fragments. [JU 19/11/2013]
Listed on page 7 of the manuscript 'Catalogue of Curiosities Sent to Oxford', thought to be in George Forster's hand, as no. 102 under the heading 'New Zeeland' and described as follows: 'a feathered coat, made of the N.Z. flax, & interwoven with parrots & ducks feathers: this from Dusky Bay'. [NMM, undated; JC 29 5 2000]
Pre-PRM label (thought to be in George Forster's hand): 'No 102'. [NMM, undated; JC 29 5 2000]
Duncan Catalogue entry - 'South Sea Islands etc 236–257. Specimens of New Zealand matting, and cloths of flax.' [NMM, undated; JC 29 5 2000]
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 - '1134 A New-Zealand cloak or mat, of somewhat similar, but extremely coarse make, with the material left in a fringe at the bottom edge. Length 3 feet 11 inches; width 6 feet 3 inches. This article like the two preceding [1886.1.1132 and 1886.1.1133] appears to be in an unfinished state. Captain Cook's Collection, 1772-1774 | stet | . No. 102. Given by Reinhold Forster, Esq. Printed catalogue 1836. p. 185 No. 236–257, and note below. (Brought from the Storeroom in the Old Clarendon Building in 1881.)'
Additional entry in Vellum volume II - '1134. Cook's original number label "No. 102" on article in 1884.'
Additional entry in Vellum volume II - 'Trans. to Anthrop. Mus. April 19th, 1886. (1134).'
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, reads: '1134. New Zealand cloak of coarse manufacture, made of the native flax-plant (Phormium tenax, Forst.) Captain Cook's Collection, No. 102. Printed 1836 Catalogue p. 185 No. 236–257. (From the storeroom in the Old Clarendon building, 1881) Possibly one of the articles of dress, obtained at Poverty Bay, mentioned in Cook's 1st voyage, vol: 2 p. 298. (Compare the make of this article with that of the Cape, or Poncho worn by the Clapet Indians, Straights of Juan de Fuca, No. 852) and what Cook says in his 3rd voyage, vol: 2 p. 280 and pp. 325, 326.' [NMM, undated; JC 29 5 2000]
Pre-PRM label (Ashmolean printed number): '1134'. [NMM / JC 29 5 2000]
Ashmolean Accession book entry - Objects transferred from the Ashmolean Museum to the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1886 or later: '1134. IBID. [i.e. NEW ZEALAND, MAORI]. Cloak or mat with brown border & fringe along lower edge, coarser make than [1886.1.]1133. Capt. Cook coll. 1772-1774, no. 102. Reinhold Forster.'
Additional Accession Book Entry (handwritten in ink on whited out space) - 'see Ling Roth p. 87, fig. 68 - prob. originally feathered.' NB See below for details of this reference. [LM; undated; JC 12 3 1999.]
Related Documents File - Report on plant ID by Caroline Cartwright, British Museum
Display history: Possibly displayed at the Ashmolean Museum between January 1776 and April 1886 (details not known). [JC 21 8 2008]
Possibly displayed at the PRM from 1886 to 1970 (details not known). [JC 21 8 2008]
Apparently loaned to the King's Lynn Museum and Art Gallery for the exhibition Six Explorers, July to September 1969. [JC 8 9 1999]
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 1886.1.1132, 1886.1.1133, 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 may be from Dusky Sound. [For a later account of the exhibition, see '"From the Islands of the South Seas, 1773–4": Peter Gathercole's Special Exhibition at the Pitt Rivers Museum', by Jeremy Coote, in Journal of Museum Ethnography, no. 17 (2005), pp. 8–31.] [JP 20/9/2004; JC 21 8 2008]
Publications history, trails & websites: Listed as one of numbers 236-257 on page 185 of A Catalogue of the Ashmolean Museum Descriptive of the Zoological Specimens, Antiquities, Coins, and Miscellaneous Curiosities (Oxford, 1836): 'South Sea Islands etc. 236–257. Specimens of New Zealand matting, and cloths of flax.' [JC 21 8 2008]
Listed as No. 41 in 'Appendix: Description of Individual Garments' on page 87 of The Maori Mantle, by H. Ling Roth, Halifax: Bankfield Museum (1923), where it is described as follows: 'No. 41. Fig. 68. Feather Cloak, No. 102. Capt. Cook Collection, Pitt-Rivers Museum, Oxford. The inset at the right hand corner is peculiar. There are three interpolated twined rows at the extreme lower right hand corner commencing at definite warps, thus: the 97th row begins at the 89th warp, the 103rd at the 37th warp, and the 106th at the 28th warp. There are 109 rows on the left hand side, and down the middle, and 112 on the right hand side. The shape of the garment is also peculiar and almost like that of an enlarged tippet. The fringe at the bottom is composed partly of warp ends, and partly of special tags. There is no sign of any worsted decoration. / It is a coarse open piece of work, at one time ornamented with feathers, the remains of the quills of which are seen in the knots on special sustaining bands, laid between every 8 or 12 warps, and quite different from the feather attachments on any of the other feather cloaks I have been able to examine. The principle seems to be the same as that in use on the Hawaiian feather cloaks, where the feathers are held in the same way by sustaining bands, with this difference that the Maori ground work is twined while the Hawaiian ground work is netted. The feathers appear to have been eaten away long ago. There are two sorts of knots as shown, but I cannot be sure that the second one is a feather carrier. It is altogether an exceptional garment.' See also detailed sketch published as figure 68 on page 89. See also detailed dimensions in table on page 121. [JC 12 3 1999]
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, by Peter Gathercole (Oxford: Pitt Rivers Museum, no date ): '102. a feathered Coat, made of the N.Z. flax, & interwoven with parrots & ducks feathers: this from Dusky Bay. The specimen marked 102 does not tally with this. It is made of a coarse flax, with a fringe along the lower edge. There are no feathers. It seems then that the localization to Dusky Bay (Sound) cannot be accepted without more evidence. Width: 188 cm.' NB The doubts Gathercole expresses here are not well founded. As Roth (see above) notes, this was 'at one time ornamented with feathers, the remains of the quills of which are seen'. [NMM, undated; JC 29 5 2000, 21 8 2008]
Listed as number 14 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 on page 57 of 'Ko te Pūtaiao, te Ao o ngā Tūpuna: Ancestral Māori Scientific Practice', by Patricia Wallace, in Awhina Tamarapa (ed.), Whatū Kākahu / Māori Cloaks. Wellington: Te Papa Press (2011), pp. 44-59, 182-3: 'Red-feathered garments are recorded in oral traditions, and were observed by members of Cook's first voyage. The first documented garment that has feathers inserted into the kaupapa is a kahu huruhuru in the Forster Collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford and was recorded as: "a feathered Coat, made of the N.Z. flax, & interwoven with parrots & ducks feathers: this from Dusky Bay". Collected around 1774 by the naturalist Reinhold Forster and his son George, this early garment has few remaining feathers.' [JC 31 12 2012]
Research notes: In his Journal, Reinhold Forster records how at Dusky Bay/Sound on 19 April 1773, he was presented with a cloak by a local Maori man: 'I went over and he nosed me & immediately gave me an Ahoo round my Shoulders & some ropeyarn [sic] of his own making...'; see page 258 of Volume II of The Resolution Journal of Johann Reinhold Forster, 1772–1775, edited by Michael E. Hoare (London: The Hakluyt Society, 1982, Second Series, No. 153). The editor, Hoare, comments in a footnote (same page): 'This kahu is possibly the specimen in the Oxford collection'. (See also a brief discussion of this event in ‘Dusky Sound 1773’, by Peter Gathercole, in Baessler-Archiv, n.s., Vol. XLV (1997; Special Issue, edited by Markus Schindlbeck, ‘Gestern und Heute—Tradition in der Südsee: Festschrift zum 75. Geburtstag von Gerd Koch’), pp. 131–43.) [JC 29 5 2000]
During a research visit on 26-27 July 2010, Ruth Port and Mandy Sunlight, both of whom are teachers of Maori weaving and plaiting, said that the cloak is woven in whatu aho patahi = single pair twined. They are also said that the colour and texture of the material do not look right for flax, and that it may possibly be made of kouka = cabbage tree, which produces a stronger fibre than flax. [MJD 06/08/2010; JC 7 4 2011]
A sample of the plant material from the cloak was given to Caroline Cartwright of the Conservation and Scientific Research Department at the British Museum, for identification. [JU 13/12/2012] The samples were identified as being from the cabbage tree (Cordyline australis) See RDF for report [JU 13/12/2013]