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Cloak purchased for war effort

Descendants of Pirinoa weaver Hera Ihakara Whakaka Hutana Watene at Aratoi. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

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A Maori cloak once auctioned off in a wool shed during World War I now sits on display in a top drawer at the Aratoi – Wairarapa Museum of Art and History so others can appreciate its origins.

Featured in the Toi Raranga exhibition, the kakahu [cloak] showcases a historical bond between Maori and Pakeha in Wairarapa, dating back to the 1800s.

A cloak donated by 92-year-old Holmes Warren was bought at auction by his grandfather during World War I.

Gifted to the museum by Pirinoa farmer, Holmes Warren about 10 years ago, the cloak was originally bought at auction by his grandfather who had lived on the Turanganui farm from 1905.

“Back then auctions would have been done in a woolshed,” Warren, aged 92, said.

The cloak was believed to have been woven by Pirinoa weaver Hera Ihakara Whakaka Hutana Watene.

Warren said his grandfather, also named Holmes Warren, bought it as part of the war effort during World War I.

“It is very special,” Warren said. “We had quite a lot of Maori stuff, but we gave it all to the museum.

“If it stayed with us it could get damaged over time and needed to be in a place where it could be looked after.”

Warren strongly remembers a second cloak of the four he gifted to the museum because it was used as part of his father’s and grandfather’s funerals.

“We’re a community down here and obviously they appreciated the help they’d received from him,” Warren said. “They asked when my father died in 1944, if the cloak could also be put on his coffin.”

A spokesperson for Aratoi said not all cloaks are on display in the Toi Raranga exhibition, but items are still available for the public to see.

Warren said other Maori artefacts had been found on the Turanganui farm, turning up when the land was being excavated for development.

“There are hardly any Maori here now but it was a very strong community,” he said of past times in Pirinoa. “They started to move out after the second world war and quite a number of them went up around Mangakino.”

Aratoi museum’s educator Kate Devenny said: “Although many woven taonga in the Aratoi collection have no individual weaver’s name attached to them, most come from a particular place, and through this knowledge it may be possible to identify the maker.

“Some weavers have signature patterns and techniques, such as hidden feathers.

“Over the course of this exhibition, we welcome any information regarding these taonga that visitors may have.”

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