The Coming of the Maori
The Rain Cape
The Rain Cape
Protection against cold and wet demanded as much attention as the protection of modesty. The idea of a wrap or a cape for the shoulders needed amplification in the colder climate of the new land. That the need was met is supported by Turaukawa (81, p. 70) who states that the garment of the first settlers was a pake, which he describes as a rough rain cape of kiekie or flax worn by women and men alike. The pake, as we know it, is the roughest type of rain cape with an outer thatch of overlapping page 161free ends to shed the rain. The body, however, is formed of roughly dressed flax by using a single-pair twined weft. It is probable that Turaukawa used the term pake because it was the poorest type of cape that he knew of but the use of the term cannot be accepted as evidence that the type of rain cape made by the first settlers was made by the same technique as the pake of later development. It is probable, therefore, that the early rain capes were made of undressed flax by the current technique of plaiting. Here again, we have supporting evidence from the isolated Moriori who, according to early visitors to the Chatham Islands, wore shoulder mats made of flax with the ends hanging down on the outer side to shed the rain. No indication is given as to technique but fortunately a rain cape in the Canterbury Museum was identified from the Museum records as probably Moriori. From the description and photographs sent to me by Roger Duff, the cape shows a more primitive technique than any of the known types of Maori rain capes. Instead of being woven with a body of dressed flax fibre, it is plaited in twilled-twos with wefts of unscutched flax. It is 41 inches wide and 34 inches long. There are five joins in the plaited body and it appears as if the old wefts were turned down in a form of floor mat join with the free ends long enough to overlap the join below. Thus an overlapping thatch was provided on the outer surface of the cape (Pl. IX). This form of plaited rain cape could well conform to the original type of rain cape referred to by Turaukawa as the pake of the early settlers.
Thus the available information indicates that the early settlers retained the two essential garments of Polynesia in the male loincloth (maro) and the female skirt while they amplified the wrap or cape by adding an outside thatch to shed the rain. The techniques were adjusted to flax material and the craft used was plaiting.