Friday, April 20, 2018

Kahu huruhuru: Feathered Māori Cloak Bestowed on Chiefs and Dignitaries to Convey Prestige, Respect, and Power

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has caused a stir with a striking image of her walking the halls of Buckingham Palace swathed in a traditional Māori cloak during this week’s Commonwealth heads of government meeting.
The prime minister wore a Kahu huruhuru; a Māori cloak adorned with feathers and bestowed on chiefs and dignitaries to convey prestige, respect and power, said Mark Sykes, guardian of Māori special collections at Te Papa, the national museum of New Zealand.

Sykes said Ardern’s choice was a proud moment for Māori around the world. “Cloaks are worn for warmth, protection and to symbolise your status and mana [power],” said Sykes. “I think it shows how she is portraying herself as a leader of Māori, of all of New Zealand, of everyone. It made me feel proud. She wore it well. She wore it so well.”

On social media in New Zealand the striking image went viral, with many people commenting that the picture captured the inversion of traditional gender roles; a female world leader wearing a powerful cloak while pregnant and representing her country.
More from The Guardian here... 

If you're thinking this is a moment of cultural appropriation, read this BBC piece for a broader understanding.

While traditionally worn only within the Maori community, the cloaks can now be seen also on the shoulders of non-Maori New Zealanders – as a gift to a politician or dignitary for a special occasion.
Ms Ardern’s korowai would fall into that very category and Mr Olsen-Reeder cautions not to see it as a case of cultural appropriation. 

“Given the premise of that gift to her, what she’s doing is entirely appropriate. That particular korowai has been given to her to signify her as a really important part of New Zealand culture.”