[ POSTER ]
The origins of the haka are an intrinsic part of Maori culture deeply rooted in the mists of time. New Zealand has grown up with the haka since first encounters between Maori and early European explorers, missionaries and settlers.
While recent tradition suggests the haka was exclusively the domain of men, legends and history reflect a different story. Indeed, the story of the most famous haka, Ka mate, was about the power of female sexuality.
To most people, the haka is a war dance. This is understandable, as many have seen the haka performed as a pre-battle challenge to their opposition. But the word ‘haka’ simply means a dance, or a song accompanied by dance. While they are the correct terms to associate with the haka, they do not do justice to the life force, the actions, words, rhythm, themes, meaning, style or history that are the haka.
In pre-European and early contact times, the haka was used as a part of the formal process when two parties came together. In short, there was a challenge from the tangata whenua (tribe from that area) followed by a response from the manuhiri (visiting party). Following speeches by both parties the encounter concluded with a tangata whenua performing a haka peruperu and the visitors responding with their own haka.
The elaborate form of the traditional challenge is not often seen these days. It is largely reserved for special occasions such as visits by senior dignitaries.
However, the principles that underpin the traditional rituals are still retained in a modern form.
New Zealanders have grown accustomed to seeing the haka performed by sporting teams. They thrill to the spectacle of the All Blacks forming ranks prior to kick off. The modern All Blacks perform the haka with passion and pride.
Today, the New Zealand Army also has its own unique haka, begun and finished by our female soldiers, acknowledging their special place in the armed forces. The haka has become a unique form of national expression.