May 11, 2009

Pacific Voices Valued Objects: Maori Korowai

Posted by: Nicole Robert

Aotaumarewa Lorraine Elkington Morehouse is a woman of Maori ancestry who collaborated in the creation of the Pacific Voices exhibit, as well as the accompanying book that features personally significant cultural objects from communities of the Pacific.

When asked to select one object that represents both the richness of Maori culture and creates a sense of cultural identity, Morehouse chose the Korowai.

The korowai, or cloak, is made from the materials of the land from which we come. These strands are woven together to keep us warm and to show our status. A cloak touches the most important celebrations in a Maori person’s life: weddings and funerals. How it is worn depends on the occasion and the status of the person. Usually, it’s the eldest of the tribe or the family who wears the korowai. When you go onto the manrae, the gathering area in a Maori village, chieftain’s families have a representative on the paepae, or dignitaries’ platform. That’ s where the eldest male wears his korowai.” --Aotaumarewa Lorraine Elkington Morehouse

This information is excerpted from Chapter 4 of Pacific Voices: Keeping our Cultures Alive.

Photo (top) Feather cloak, like the one Morehouse describes, from the Burke’s Ethnology Collection. Photo (bottom) Close-up of the border done in a traditional twining technique, called taniko.