“Cloaked in our aspirations”: Māori mothers and grandmothers weaving stories from their past for the future

Hinekura Smith


Māori women play a vital role in enabling our children and grandchildren to live secure, positive cultural identities “as Māori”. In utero we surround our children in a protective kahu (the term for both cloak and amniotic sac) and, after they enter the world, we continue to cloak them in tangible and abstract ways with our values, beliefs, and aspirations. Of the multiple aspirations that Māori women hold for ourselves and our whānau (families) to be healthy, happy, and whole, this research concerns itself with Māori women’s aspirations to “live as Māori” – understood as living a full and holistically well life, connected to people and places, and able to participate confidently in both the Māori and the global world. 

A qualitative project grounded in Kaupapa Māori and Mana Wāhine theory, this study explores the stories of eight Māori women, including myself as a researcher. As I taught the women to weave traditionally made Māori cloaks, they told stories of reclaiming, restoring, and revisioning living as Māori for themselves and their whānau.

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