London, April 20 (IANS) New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has created a sartorial stir by donning a traditional Maori coat to meet British Queen Elizabeth II during this week’s Commonwealth heads of government meeting.
Ardern wore a korowai — a Maori cloak adorned with feathers and bestowed on chiefs and dignitaries to convey prestige, respect and power, according to Mark Sykes, guardian of Maori special collections at Te Papa, the National Museum of New Zealand.
The photos of Ardern wearing the korowai on Thursday generated a wave of pride, enthusiasm and support online, with people praising it as “stunning” and “beautiful”.
Many people commented that the picture captured the inversion of traditional gender roles — a female world leader wearing a powerful cloak while pregnant and representing her country.
The korowai was given to Ardern by a Maori group in London, for her to wear at the Commonwealth Summit, reported the New Zealand Herald.
“The significance of the garment is the prestige that comes with it,” said Donna Campbell, lecturer in Maori studies at Waikato University in Hamilton.
“What it represents is the prestige and power of the person wearing it. So for Jacinda to be wearing it at this event is completely fits with the weight of the occasion, from a Maori point of view, this garment was entirely appropriate.”
Having won a surprise victory last year, 37-year-old Ardern is the world’s youngest female Prime Minister.
According to Radio New Zealand, Ardern was one of only four leaders to get a 20-minute private audience with the Queen Elizabeth. Ardern had previously voiced her support for New Zealand to become a republic.