MAKING A CLOAK
IS NOT SO DIFFICULT
The making of Maori cloaks is almost a lost art. This is particularly unfortunate as these cloaks were the most beautiful and impressive garment of the ancient Maori. Very few people are still making them today, but among them is Mrs Jean Rerekura of Raetihi who not only makes a special type of Maori cloak, but also from time to time, acts as a teacher in arts and crafts in the local school.
In her drawing room, together with her aunt, Mrs Amiria Kerei, she showed Te Ao Hou the making of a ‘ngore’ a ceremonial type of cloak without taniko but finely woven and decorated with pompoms. Ngore nowadays may have several types of decoration, dyed flax is traditional but for those who like the modern style there is red worsted, etc. Mrs Rerekura used tufts of red cockerels' feathers which look very effective.
The cloak made when Te Ao Hou visited Raetihi was to be used for a ceremonial purpose, the presentation of a cup to the best Maori student in the new Ruapehu College at Ohakune.
The method of making these cloaks is very simple. It is a technique described by Te Rangihiroa as downward weaving. For warps (the threads hanging down in the picture; whenu) the ancient Maori used thick soft flax fibre threads which were very laborious to make, but as soon as the first traders reached New Zealand the Maori women began to substitute candlewick. Mrs Rerekura used wool for these warps and muka (flax) for the wefts (the threads woven into the warps).
First step: The first weft is suspended between sticks after the warps have been attached as follows—A strip of plaited flax is twisted round a strand of wool (warp) one inch from the end of the strand. A second strand of wool is laid next to the first strand of wool. The top of the first is bent over on to the second and the left end of the muka (plaited flax weft) is then brought to the right and the right end to the left. In this way all the strands of wool (warps) are gradually attached to the first weft.
Mrs Rerekura states that the stand she uses is a traditional type and that she followed tradition by having a stand on which two ngore can be woven at the same time.
Now the other wefts: Four strands of muka are tied together with an ordinary knot. This knot is laid against the first warp. Two strands of muka are placed on top and two underneath this warp. (This second weft is about ¼ of an inch from top of ngore.) The two top strands are then inserted between the two bottom strands and laid underneath the second warp. The two bottom strands are brought over the second warp so the two that were on top before are at the bottom.
In this way the weft is placed around all the warps.
The feathers are added in this way: First, the way they are added on the body of the ngore (as opposed to the top). Neck feathers of a cockerel are used, two feathers being stuck together with soap rolled by hand. The shaft should be clearly exposed. It is held against (say) warp three. The muka when tied around the wool as described previously will also encircle the top of the shaft. Then the bottom of the shaft is bent up and laid against warp No. 4. The muka is then laid around this warp (No. 4) and at the same time it holds in the top of the shaft. Warps 5 and 6 are passed over; process repeated for seven and eight.
On the top of the ngore neck feathers are not used; breast feathers are used instead. They are attached to every warp.