Mao's cloak to be returned to New Zealand

01:59, Feb 12 2013
Mao's cloak
A cloak gifted to Chairman Mao Zedong by Koroki, the 5th Maori King, will be returned.

A Maori cloak gifted to Chinese communist leader Chairman Mao Zedong will return to New Zealand later this year.

Te Papa chief executive Michael Houlihan revealed the cloak would be returned on loan from China when he briefed Wellington City Council on the national museum's forward plan this morning.

As part of a new funding arrangement after the council nearly axed the museum's $2.5 million annual grant last year, the museum provides six monthly updates to councillors.

At today's update, Mr Houlihan outlined planned exhibitions for the next six months - including revealing that the cloak would be returned on loan from China and will be on display from June 13 to October 20.

''It was a gift from the then Maori King ... We had to get special approval to borrow it and bring it over here,'' he said.

The cloak was housed at the National Museum of China, but had been incorrectly placed in a Sri Lankan section.


There were also plans to bring an exhibition from the National Museum of China to Te Papa next year, with talks underway about which items would be coming here, he said.

The Kahu huruhuru (feather cloak) was woven about 1950. It was gifted to Chairman Mao by Koroki, the 5th Maori King.

It is made of wool and feathers of chicken, ring-necked pheasant, mallard duck, toroa (albatross) and pukeko).

It was originally presented to Chairman Mao in 1957 by film maker Ramai Te Miha Hayward, on behalf of the King, as a gift of goodwill.

Hayward recounted giving the cloak in New Zealand Women in China, published in 1995.

''Mao greeted me, and then I put the cloak on his shoulders and tied it. I said it was a gift from our Maori king of Aotearoa New Zealand, a gift of goodwill to the leaders of China. I said 'We are the smallest nation in the world, giving this gift to the largest nation in the world'.He smiled and said, reassuringly, 'The smallest is as great as the largest'."

In 2004 the New Zealand Ambassador to China, John McKinnon, tried to find the cloak.

After more than a year it was found it stored in the National Museum of China, among other foreign gifts to China's leaders.

Contact Katie Chapman
Wellington reporter
Twitter: @katiechapman28

The Dominion Post