Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Presented at Textile Society of America 11th Biennial Symposium: Textiles as Cultural Expressions, September 4-7, 2008, Honolulu, Hawai'i. Copyright © 2008 Christina Hurihia Wirihana


As Maori, we recognise ourselves as Tangatawhenua, literally meaning people of the land. We acknowledge our Earth Mother, Papatuanuku and Sky Father, Ranginui as the kaitiaki, guardians of our natural world. The natural fibres of Harakeke, commonly known as NZ Flax, was the most extensively used fibres in the production of traditional clothing, fishing nets, lashing, baskets and other functional forms that contributed to the survival of my people. The medicinal values of Harakeke also played a major role. The process of extracting the fibres (muka) from Harakeke continues today as it did many many years ago. The humble kuku, mussel shell is a priceless and irreplaceable tool that is still accessible and unique in Maori society today.

Kakahu, traditional Maori cloak was one of the garments made, it served many functions, and the appropriate Kakahu was chosen, depending on the event at the time. The techniques and processes contributed to define the difference between one Kakahu to the other. The retention of tikanga, rules associated when making a Kakahu continue to be practiced today, in accordance to Maori culture. Colonisation has impacted on many facets of traditional Maori Clothing and it is my responsibility as kaitiaki, guardian, to ensure the retention of tradition is retained. My presentation will have a direct reference to the function of selected Kakahu as my Cultural Expression.