A museum taonga

OperaThis exquisitely-crafted tikimuri, or opera cape, was made of tīkumu (mountain daisy leaves), by Mrs Titahi of Mangamaunu, Kaikōura, in 1901 and is currently housed in Canterbury Museum.

It is one of the Ngāi Tahu taonga that was displayed in Mō Kā Uri: Taonga from Canterbury Museum, that was shown in association with Mō Tātou: The Ngāi Tahu Whānau Exhibition from Te Papa in 2010; and as the catalogue states: “After more than 100 years, this elegant tikimuri (opera cape) still has a delicate waxen feel to its opaque white leaves of tīkumu (mountain daisy or celmisia).

The cape was made by Mrs Titahi – along with a small kete made of houhi (ribbonwood) to hold toiletries – as a gift for the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (later to become Queen Mary), during their visit to Canterbury in June 1901.

Tīkumu is one of Ngāi Tahu’s listed taonga species. Its snowy-white fibre is highly valued by weavers for finely-woven, waterproof fabrics and it was still being woven into garments as late as the 1920s. The silvery underside was peeled from the leaves and attached in rows to a whītau (fibre) kaupapa (underlay), often to create a raincape. The soft white down was also worked into the whītau to make the garment waterproof. Various members of the sub-alpine plant can be found throughout New Zealand mountains and are particularly abundant along the Main Divide of the Southern Alps.