The rare kahu kiwi, a precious taonga with significant cultural value, has been sold for over $72,000 at an auction held by Webb’s auction house in Auckland, New Zealand. The final hammer price of $61,000 to $72,895, including the buyer’s premium, far exceeded the pre-auction estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. The item received intense interest from buyers, with nearly 40 bids made before reaching its final price.
A Kahu kiwi is a feathered cloak made of kiwi feathers. The shafts of feathers from the kiwi (New Zealand’s national bird: Apteryx spp) were woven into the garment to secure them, usually with their ‘fluffy’ underside facing outwards. At significant gatherings, such as funerals and marriages, kahu kiwi were worn as symbols of chieftainship or high birth.
Webb’s head of decorative arts, Ben Erren, disclosed that the kahu kiwi was purchased by an iwi, a Māori community. While the auction house did not reveal the identity of the buyer, they have offered their assistance to ensure that the taonga is appropriately preserved and presented for many generations to come.
The kahu kiwi has an intriguing history, having spent decades outside of New Zealand after its owners migrated to Australia around 160 years ago. Its exact origin is uncertain, but it is believed to have been a gift to the family’s great-great-grandfather and has been passed down through generations.
The sale of the kahu kiwi has raised concerns, and the Auckland War Memorial Museum has offered to take care of the taonga. Measures have been put in place to ensure that the kahu kiwi remains in Aotearoa (New Zealand) and continues to hold its cultural significance within the country. The preservation and protection of this precious treasure are of utmost importance to both the buyer and the wider community.