Woman NZ

Cloaked in aroha

I thought of my own mother wearing it and there’s a lot of pride… it just feels like such a beautiful moment 

Lifting the fraying, delicate korowai onto her shoulders, Jenny-May Clarkson is overcome. Tears spring to her eyes and her heart starts to race. This beautiful cloak, steeped in meaning and significance, has sat carefully wrapped at the bottom of a wardrobe at the broadcaster’s family home for as long as she can remember, yet today is the first time she’s tried it on. It’s a powerful moment, so a photo is hastily snapped and sent to Jenny-May’s mum, Paddy Coffin. “It’s alive. You’ve given life back to it,” reads the response.

Now the tears really are flowing. The Breakfast host is overwhelmed with emotion. “It’s the reality of finally wearing it,” she says at our very special Woman photo shoot. “It’s the history of it… The two trail-blazing women who made it, also from Ngāti Maniapoto, they’re me. I thought of them and I thought of my own mother wearing it. There’s a lot of pride – it just feels like such a beautiful moment.”

Crafted around 70 years ago by Dame Rangimārie Hetet and her daughter Diggeress Te Kanawa, who were pioneers of traditional Māori weaving and korowai, the cloak was gifted to Jenny-May’s mum because of her parents’ involvement in their community. It has been wrapped up

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