Is that a Korowai?

Aug 13, 2017

Quite often the term "korowai" is used to speak of "cloaks" The term for "cloaks" is "nga kākahu". A "korowai" is a type of cloak. A "korowai" is adorned with hukahuka (tassles) and sometimes feathers - but ALWAYS - the main adornment is hukahuka. This is a korowai.

 A Korowai I wove in 2015 for the Ako Aotearoa Awards

The Real thing vs Imitation 'korowai'

I know that I've been privileged to grow up in a family where access to the real thing has been literally everyday. I'm sorry that all whānau Māori have not had the same access to this part of our cultural heritage, knowledge and skills. It's one of the unfortunate consequences of colonisation: it became much easier to acquire machine produced fabric than to laboriously weave by hand traditional garments such as korowai. Very quickly (within just a few generations) the tradition of korowai and other kãkahu weaving, as a commonly practised skill, died out.

A Korowai is handwoven using the whatu...

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How much for a korowai?

May 31, 2016


This is a question we get asked at least once a week.

"My (loved one) is (graduating, getting married, retiring, etc) next month. I'd like to give them a korowai. How much please?"

Before I answer that question - write down what your guesstimate is.
You can compare your guess with my answer at the end.

Let's use the simple formula: Basic Price = Cost of Materials + Cost of Time

Cost of materials

None. Pretty much.

A truckload (literally) of flax leaves and a few bird feathers plus some dye.
Natural dyes are free. The cost of power for preparing them is nominal.
Chemical ones will cost around $100.

Cost of Time

Here's where most of the real cost sits.

Step 1: To gather and strip enough flax for one medium sized korowai requires four flax-gathering trips -  5 hours

Step 2: Prepare Muka for weaving including:

Prepare flax for extraction of muka
Extract muka
Ply fibres
Prep feathers
A total of 250 hours

Step three : Weave (fast and...

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