NEW ZEALAND: The Haka

What is more emblematic of New Zealand than the haka?

The Maori Battalion in 1941 in Egypt performing the haka during WWII – Source

While the haka is best known for rugby (more on that below), it’s much deeper culturally. You tend to hear of it simplified as a “war dance” – it was definitely used as such by Maori, and generally as a way to show power and prestige, but it’s also a way convey honour, pride, and values. Here’s a great one, with subtitles, at a wedding:

Or at schools, like this one honouring a retiring teacher:

It’s also used in mourning, as with these students honouring the victims of the Christchurch mosque shooting:

Of note in all the above videos is that while hakas are created and led by Maori, non-Indigenous New Zealanders (Pakeha) also take part, and in a genuine, respectful, deeply-connected way. The All Blacks, who have made it famous globally, do not take it lightly – it’s a connection to the land, their team, and to their culture:

Rugby is, of course, where most of us non-Kiwis are introduced to the haka. Below is an overview of the history of the All Blacks’ haka in international competition – other Polynesian countries like Tonga, Fiji, and Samoa also have related dances before their matches. The vid also touches on how other countries’ teams respond to the haka:

On a lighter note, what the video misses is how Canada traditionally responds to facing the All Blacks on the rugby pitch: we lose 63-0. (Our women’s team is much better, they’ll get to the finals before losing to New Zealand.)

Importantly, you can also do the haka on ice:

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