The Special Meaning of New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern's Coat
The feather-woven korowai is a symbol of power and respect in New Zealand’s Maori culture.
For the most part, attendees of Queen Elizabeth II’s banquet for the leaders of the Commonwealth last night wore exactly what you’d expect to a royal affair: evening gowns and fine jewelry.
But New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern skipped the tiara and tulle, instead turning heads with a traditional Māori garment.
Ardern wore a stunning feather-woven Kahu huruhuru — a type of cloak known as a korowai, a symbol of power and respect among New Zealand’s indigenous Māori communities.
"Korowai are a very special form of cloak," Vini Olsen-Reeder, a lecturer at Victoria University, who is also Māori, told the BBC. "There are lots of different kinds of cloaks, but the korowai is the one with the highest prestige."
Ardern’s cloak was loaned to her by the Ngati Ranana London Māori Club, CNN reported.
Korowai are worn by chiefs and dignitaries and can symbolize your status, Mark Sykes, a collection manager at the National Museum of New Zealand told the Guardian. Each one is made by hand, taking months to complete, and the cloaks are often passed down from generation to generation.
“I think it shows how she is portraying herself as a leader of Māori, of all of New Zealand, of everyone,” Sykes said. “It made me feel proud. She wore it well. She wore it so well.”
And he’s not the only one who thinks so. New Zealanders have expressed their pride in their culture and admiration for their leader since photos of Ardern at the banquet surfaced.
An amazing image of leadership in 2018. 😍— Mariam Parwaiz (@MariamParwaiz) April 20, 2018
New Zealand's feminist Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, wearing a korowai (Māori cloak), attending a Commonwealth meeting in the post-empire colonised world. pic.twitter.com/vSV7YB7niE
Perhaps one of the features of the image that gives people pause is the subversion of what power is & particularly what it has not been. Here is a woman in power who is hapu. Eurocentric cultural stories of power tell us its the opposite of power. The visual says wanna bet? pic.twitter.com/7u6Koe9TAC— Jess Berentson-Shaw (@DrJessBerentson) April 19, 2018
Jacinda Ardern wore a korowai at Buckingham Palace last night and she was SERVING.— Dean Tāne (@Maccadaynu) April 20, 2018
*gasps, gags and cries in Māori* pic.twitter.com/7zN4KgLbly
How stunning does our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern look wearing traditional Korowai by Ngati Ranana at the commonwealth banquet and amazing to see her flying the NZ fashion designer flag at Buckingham Palace in Juliette Hogan.— Annah Stretton (@AnnahStretton) April 20, 2018
📸 Getty Images
Ardern, who is pregnant and due in June, will soon be the first world leader to give birth while in office in over three decades. The last to do so was Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, according to the BBC.
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