What is more emblematic of New Zealand than the haka?
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: