Kākahu and gown: The incorporation of kākahu into academical dress in Aotearoa New Zealand with an example of a kākahu worn at a City University of New York graduation ceremony in 2006 - an interview with Sarah Smith
Evolved from ancient clothing, kākahu or traditional/contemporary Māori garments made from natural or synthetic fibres, or a combination of both, are to Māori, a symbol of honour and prestige. Within the context of academical dress, kākahu may represent to the wearer, ancestry, achievement, and educational success. While the history of academical dress in Aotearoa New Zealand clearly begins, as Noel Cox’s book Academical dress in New Zealand identifies, with the establishment of universities in the nineteenth century, the point at which kākahu were incorporated into academical dress is less clear. The author’s suspicion, based on increased Māori political activism from the 1970s, the explosive growth of Māori-driven educational initiatives in the 1980s, and some newspaper articles commenting on Māori and graduation/academical dress in the 1990s, is that kākahu were incorporated into academical dress in the late 1980s and1990s. This article will discuss the incorporation of kākahu into academical dress in Aotearoa New Zealand. This article will also include an example of a kākahu worn at a City University of New York graduation ceremony in 2006.