Traditional Maori dress : rediscovering forgotten elements of pre-1820 practice.
Thesis DisciplineMaori Studies
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis examines evidence of traditional Maori dress from the mid-seventeenth century to 1820. It focuses on ephemeral and perishable elements of dress which previous research appears to have forgotten, overlooked or dismissed: hairstyle, head adornment, the use of bird and animal skins, and a former method of wearing cloaks. Twentieth century perceptions of traditional Maori dress were mainly derived from selected images published soon after the voyages of Captain Cook. Other available graphic evidence was deemed unreliable because of the perceived influence of late eighteenth century artistic practices. However, this research validates the work of contemporary graphic artists and establishes that many early European images of Maori, previously un-researched, offer a valuable and largely reliable source of ethnological data. The thesis uses multidisciplinary analysis to re-examine not only the graphic evidence but traditional, textual, and material sources, and brings to bear specialist knowledge of the construction of dress and related technology. The research seeks to employ a holistic perspective and to analyse dress in its cultural context to understand its significance more completely. The synthesis of these forms of evidence and the introduction of empirical procedures has elicited new information and ascertains that traditional Maori dress was more varied and more complex than formerly perceived.