A black and white photograph from British Museum archives of a unique and mysterious Maori cloak, called Kakahu Raranga, captured the attention of Paekakariki weaver Margaret Jackson six years ago.

It inspired Margaret to weave a cloak in homage to that unique kakahu.

This month, in an emotional ceremony in the Hokianga, she gifted her cloak to the original iwi.

The original kakahu had probably been worn by someone of high ranking (rangatira) in the Mangungu area, Hokianga, located towards the top of the North Island.


"The kakahu was given to Wesleyan missionary William White and from there it passed through a number of hands and ended up in the British Museum, although not on display.

"It is now held in their storage facility."

As part of her Maori visual arts degree at Te Wananga O Aotearoa, Margaret researched the kakahu, carefully studying photographs of the original, and investigating its construction.

She took about half a year creating a similar cloak, which is woven from flax and featured a distinctive chequerboard pattern.

"It's not a replica because I couldn't work out the exact construction just from a photograph.

"And the original of course had natural dyes and I've used chemical dyes."

Margaret, who is the arts coordinator at Kapiti College, wore the cloak at her graduation and the garment has featured in two exhibitions.

Although she loved it, she didn't feel like it belonged to her.

"It always felt like it wasn't in the right place."

She knew that knowledge of the original kakahu had been lost over time.

No other surviving kakahu used that technique and the original iwi would be unaware that it even existed.

This led her to approach Mita Harris, of Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, who helped her to gift her cloak to the iwi at the Mangungu Tiriti commemorations on February 12.

The commemorations recognise the third and largest signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, at Mangungu Mission, a historic place now cared for by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.

"It was amazing and terrifying at the same time," said Margaret, who was accompanied by Te Ati Awa Ki Whakarongotai kuia June Davis for support.

"It was very moving and gifting the cloak was an emotional moment for all of us."

The cloak was formally presented to kaumatua Whitianga Bedggood and is now stored at Mangungu's Motu Kiore marae, where it will be used for graduations or other special occasions.

Mita said, "Besides being a beautiful taonga in its own right, the recreation is very important as it raises awareness of the existence of the original garment.

"It's important that people learn about the original kakahu and its close connection to the Hokianga."

It has now sparked a discussion among the iwi about how to repatriate the Kakahu Raranga.

Margaret, who has no Maori ancestry, said her cloak was now in the right place.

"It has been a special journey."