Ngā kākahu ō te kaikaranga : an indigenisation of apparel construction : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Fine Arts at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand

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The way Māori women choose to adorn themselves today signifies our diversity as we continue to be shaped by our colonial reality, whilst also rebelling against it. This reality has evolved through generations of disempowerment, which has uniquely impacted Māori women when we are relegated to a mere side story within our own historical narrative. Our colonial reality is met by confusion, denial, resistance and celebration. This complex reality dictates how we might individuate national and international trends through apparel, whilst continually influencing how we present ourselves. My research aims to contribute to the indigenisation of apparel by producing garments that elevate Māori visual language beyond the patterning of surfaces, colonial aesthetics and conformist ceremonial attire. This normalisation — achieved through elevating Māori visual language— aims to add to the evolution of Māori apparel that began from early experimentation to extreme levels of skill and expertise. Māori apparel has evolved through assimilation, colonisation, and marginalisation, with further changes brought by urbanisation, in which the pressure to whitewash ourselves and our children intensified. Our apparel has evolved through the resurgence of kapa haka, language revitalisation via the Kōhanga Reo movement, and our increased and expanded cultural reclamation. In producing apparel that was guided by pre-colonial values, my practice inevitably led me to challenge the ideals of beauty and functionality. There is arguably no other place where the collective beauty and function of Māori women is more visible than on marae atea, especially during tangihanga. My construction process is based on the role of reo ururangi, the women of Māhurehure descent who fulfil the role of reo karanga during tangihanga. Māori visual language relevant to their role is sourced from a diverse array of human-made and naturally occurring references. As reo ururangi derive their beauty and function from the natural and spiritual world, beauty becomes less superficial, and functionality broadens its scope beyond physical requirements. Apparel thus becomes a vessel that connects Māori women to our core understanding of space and time, how we navigate the world and how we utilise a language that values ancestral artistry, ritual and visceral bonds to the spiritual realm.
Kākahu, Māori visual language, indigenisation, clothing, construction, karanga, Hokianga