Anyone familiar with New Zealand or who is a fan of Rugby Union will be aware of the Haka often performed by the New Zealand rugby team at Rugby matches - and by others at a whole raft of special or cultural occasions. The Haka is an integral part of the culture of New Zealand today.
New Zealand is a majestic place to visit, and the largest city of Auckland has just been declared by the Lonely Planet as the best city to visit in 2022. New Zealand is famous for being the scene of Middle Earth and hosting Hobbiton today. It is easy to see from photos why New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places on earth to visit.
Significance and Origin Of the Haka
The Haka comes from the native Maori population of New Zealand. The Maori are a Polynesian population who first colonized New Zealand around 700 years ago. The Maori developed their own unique culture on these islands cut off from the rest of the world.
- Maori: The Native Polynesian Population of New Zealand
Traditionally the haka was performed when two parties met as part of the customs around encounters. It has been traditionally used for many occasions. One notable occasion was for war as a way of preparing the warriors mentally and physically for battle. It was also performed when groups met in peace.
- As A War Dance: As A War Dance It Would Some Up The Courage For the Warriors To Fight
The haka is usually performed to represent a display of a tribe's pride, strength, and unity. The warlike heritage of the Maori is demonstrated in the dance with foot-stamping, tongue protrusions, and rhythmic body slapping together with loud chants.
- Weddings: At Weddings Women May Also Join In The Haka Performance
Some haka should only be performed by males, but there are other haka that can be performed by anyone and even a few that are women-only haka. In New Zealand, both Maori and non-Maori perform the haka, however, it is recognized as a Maori tradition, and care is taken to respect the dance and the Maori.
- Gender Roles: There Are Normally Gender Roles In The Haka, Check The Tradition To Not Disrespect The Tradition
According to Maori legend, the origin of the haka is a celebration of life. The Tourism New Zealand website states:
"The story goes that Tama-nui-te-ra, the sun god, and his wife Hine-raumati, who embodies summer, had a son named Tane-rore.
On hot summer days, Tane-rore would dance for his mother, causing the air to quiver. This light, rapid movement was the foundation of all haka."
Haka And The All Blacks
Internationally, the Haka is most famous for Rugby, here it is used to challenge the opponents on the sports field. It is very hard to overstate just how loved and important Rugby and the New Zealand All Blacks team are to the nation. The haka performance by the All Backs is a stunning show of strength and is a practice well respected by opposing teams from all over the world.
- New Zealand Rugby Team: The All Blacks - Named After The All Black Uniforms They Wear
There are many forms of the Haka, but the most famous is the one the All Blacks traditionally use - the "Ka Mate". The Ka Mate Haka was composed in the 1820s by the Maori chief Te Rauparaha. The Black Ferns are New Zealand's women's rugby team and they perform the "Ko Uhia Mai" haka (meaning "Let it be Known" in English).
The main body of the Ka Mate haka is:
"Ka mate, ka mate! ka ora! ka ora!Ka mate! ka mate! ka ora! ka ora!Tēnei te tangata pūhuruhuruNāna nei i tiki mai whakawhiti te rāĀ, upane! ka upane!Ā, upane, ka upane, whiti te ra!"
"'Tis death! 'tis death! (or: I may die) 'Tis life! 'tis life! (or: I may live)'Tis death! 'tis death! 'Tis life! 'tis life!This is the hairy manWho summons the sun and makes it shineA step upward, another step upward!A step upward, another... the Sun shines!"
The text of the Ka Mate haka may be odd and confusing in English. Unfortunately, it does not translate well and it whole context is lost of how the chief who wrote it, wrote it while fleeing for his life. There is some explanation on the All Blacks website.
Where To See The Haka
Today for those wanting to see the haka, then watch any Rugby match with the All Blacks - or any other national New Zealand team. It is performed by many New Zealand teams before they compete around the world.
Tip: Watch An All Black Rugby Match
Alternatively, one can visit cultural Maori attractions and performances for the tourists. These can be found on New Zealand tourism directories like New Zealand Tourism.
Today it is used during Maori ceremonies and celebrations to honor guests, in New Zealand is possible to see it performed at family events like birthdays and weddings and even at the airport to welcome people home. Watch here to see a very moving wedding haka and how the bride is moved to tears.