Maori King’s Gift to Chairman Mao Loaned Back to New Zealand
‘The smallest is as a great as the largest’, said Chairman Mao when given a Maori cloak by New Zealand filmmaker Ramai Te Miha Hayward in 1957. Chairman Mao was replying to Ramai when she said to him that ‘We are the smallest nation in the world, giving this gift to the largest nation in the world’. The Maori cloak was given to Chairman Mao on behalf of Koroki, the 5th Maori King, as a gesture of goodwill to the leaders of China. Now the cloak is returning to New Zealand, on loan. Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong handed it over to Prime Minister John Key and the Minister of Maori Affairs, Pita Sharples, at a ceremony in Beijing, The People’s Daily reports. Vice Premier Liu said that the cloak was a historical testimony of China-New Zealand friendship. ‘I believe that bilateral relations will have a brighter future’, Vice Premier Liu said, according to The People’s Daily. How the cloak was given to Chairman Mao is a remarkable story. In early 1957, Ramai Hayward, of Ngati Kahungunu and Ngaitahu descent, and her husband, Rudall Hayward, were given permission to visit China. Both were pioneer New Zealand filmmakers. Both were also the first English-speaking foreigners to be allowed to film openly in the communist country. Ramai described the cloak’s presentation in New Zealand Women In China, by Tom Newnham. ‘We knew that in the evening we would have an opportunity to present the cloak… so I was dressed in a piupiu that Princess Te Puea had given me’. As they left their hotel room, Rudall grabbed his camera. Ramai continues, ‘Then someone came over and took Ron and me over to where Chairman Mao was standing with Premier Chou En Lai and indicated that I could present the cloak to Mao. He had an interpreter, and I was standing barefooted with my interpreter right in front of him. 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… a gift of goodwill to the leaders of China…’ Ramai and Rudall Hayward made three documentaries in China. The cloak was stored in the National Museum of China. Put, by mistake, in the Sri Lanka collection, it remained there for many years. In 2004 however, New Zealand‘s Ambassador to China, John McKinnon, having read Ramai’s story, decided to find the cloak. It took over a year to track down. The Kahu huruhuru (feather cloak) was woven about 1950. It is made of wool and feathers of chicken, ring-necked pheasant, mallard duck, toroa (albatross) and pukeko. The cloak will be on display at Te Papa from June 13 to October 20, 2013.