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Waimarama Maori

Rapaki – Part 1

Rapaki Part One – A ‘fashion statement’ or retrieving the past?

On my recent trip to Hawaii, I met up with a relative from here. He was wearing a lavalava. He looked very relaxed. He assured me that it was indeed ‘very’ comfortable and that he wore it back at home in New Zealand too. That triggered a whole new line of thinking.

What did our ancestors wear underneath their cloaks?

A ‘wrap around’ is common throughout the Pacific. We are part of the ‘polynesian’ family and it is hard to imagine that we might not have worn something similar.

I looked online and came across an interesting thesis written by E. Patricia. Y. Wallace titled TRADITIONAL MAORI DRESS. REDISCOVERING FORGOTTEN ELEMENTS OF PRE 1820 PRACTICE. It was a most interesting read. Many thanks.

I decided to bite the bullet and assume that ‘yes’ we did have a wrap-around garment and ‘yes’ I would make a ‘fashion statement’ or ‘retrieve the past’ depending upon how you want to look at it.

I confirmed with Ta Timoti Karetu that we do indeed have a Maori wraparound garment and that is ‘rapaki’. From here-on, this will be referred to as a ‘rapaki’ and woe betide any of you who might dare to say that I am wearing anything else!

Where to start?
Back on line. An online order for one ‘rapaki’ colour black, variously described as something else was placed.
Some days later the parcel arrived. I could hardly wait to open it and try it on. What a shock. It was white. A hurried call to the supplier elicited the following response.
“Oh, Well you can wear it to church….”

One black rapaki arrived a week later. It still needed some modification. The nature of which is between me and the seamstress. Another week and I was called by the seamstress.

“Mr Mac Donald your skirt is ready. Would you like to come in for a fitting?”
We had quite a meaningful discussion as to the name of the item under discussion. I guess that it was a bridge too far because the next call went something like this….
“Mr Mac Donald your garment is ready to be picked up”

Well; all of the clips lined up and everything was in the right place; but something was missing. It needed something Maori. A taniko cummerbund was a serious consideration. For those of you who don’t know a cummerbund is a waist fitting band that more or less acts as a belt. I looked like Tinirau’s whale packaged for Christmas.

I abandoned that and decided to have the company logo screen printed on the front panel. It all looked quite good. Good enough to interest my nephew Ike to join me for the big reveal. He purchased his rāpaki, had it screen printed and we were ready to go public. This was it.

Let me say that we never intended to go public and were content to restrict our cultural fashion statement to visitors to Hakikino. Nothing ever goes to plan though and that is the second part of this story.

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