May 16, 2010

The Haka

Monique Chartier

No, that's not a NY/MA/RI mispronounciation of someone who breaks into your computer. It's the dance (ritual?), lasting about a minute, performed before each game by New Zealand's Rugby team, the All Blacks. It has its roots in a Maori dance tradition, battlefield and other.

There's actually a movement to ban the Haka, for reasons that seem pretty lame. A reference this morning by a travelling BBC World Service reporter led me to discover one enjoyable aspect of a sport that otherwise strikes me (forgive me, rugby aficionados) as eighty minutes of unmitigated, pointless violence.

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When the Tea Partiers get together on the State Capitol lawn during a session of the Smith Hill RICO conspiracy, this is how they should start their rally...

Posted by: chuckR at May 16, 2010 3:41 PM


Here is a little education on other people’s culture that living in New England and Rhode Island you might not be aware of therefore making yourself venerable to misconceptions.

Also for your information the skin tone of Polynesians goes from whiter that European white to blacker than African black but neither of those two blood lines are found in the original Polynesian blood lines.

Haka is a cultural Polynesian dance that is performed throughout Polynesia by various islanders in different forms. Samoans dance a form of the Haka, Fijians dance a form of the Haka, Hawaiians dance a form of the Haka (University of Hawaii football team performs the Haka before each game), Tahitians dance a form of the Haka and Tongans dance a form of the Haka.

Haka is the traditional dance form of the Polynesian Māori of Island of Aotearoa better known as New Zealand. It is a dance performed by a group, with vigorous movements and stamping of the feet with rhythmically shouted accompaniment.

Although the use of a haka by the “All Blacks” rugby union team has made one type of haka familiar, it has led to great misconceptions by people not aware of Polynesia culture. Haka are not exclusively war dances, nor are they only performed solely by men. Some are performed by women, others by mixed groups, and some simple haka are performed by children. Haka are performed for various reasons: for amusement, as a hearty welcome to distinguished guests, or to acknowledge great achievements or occasions.

War haka (peruperu) were originally performed by warriors before a battle, proclaiming their strength and prowess in order to intimidate their opposition. Today, haka constitute an integral part of formal or official welcome ceremonies for distinguished visitors or foreign dignitaries, serving to impart a sense of the importance of the occasion.

Various actions are employed in the course of a performance, including facial contortions such as showing the whites of the eyes and the poking out of the tongue, and a wide variety of vigorous body actions such as slapping the hands against the body and stamping of the feet. As well as chanted words, a variety of cries and grunts are used.

Haka may be understood as a kind of symphony in which the different parts of the body represent many instruments. The hands, arms, legs, feet, voice, eyes, tongue and the body as a whole combine to express courage, annoyance, joy or other feelings relevant to the purpose of the occasion.

When I was visiting the US Congressional supported East West Center in Honolulu a Samoan dance group performed a Haka during a welcoming ceremony.

Posted by: Ken at May 16, 2010 5:35 PM

The "dance" seems a little cornball to me, but then, Cubans think we are all redheaded and chew gum continuously.

While the New Zealand government cannot be labeled repressive it is more involved in every day life than I would prefer.

Since I see a number of white faces on the "All Blacks" (albeit embarassed faces) I am not sure what purpose would be served by eliminating it.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at May 16, 2010 6:03 PM

Warrington Faust,

The Haka is a Polynesian cultural dance that has many forms performed by men, women, children and mixed groups of men, women and children throughout the islands of Polynesia.

The Polynesian Triangle encompasses all the islands between Hawaii to Rapa Nui (Easter Island) to Aotearoa (New Zealand) and back to Hawaii. The Polynesians frequently sailed back and forth between these islands in outrigger ocean-canoes without any known navigational instruments.

The Haka is performed as a war dance; for amusement, as a hearty welcome to distinguished guests, or to acknowledge great achievements or occasions.

The name of the rugby team “All Blacks” has nothing to do with race or ethnic origin as Polynesian people do not consider themselves or relate to African blacks. If you really want to offend a person address a dark skin Polynesian as a “black” but make sure I’m about a mile away from you when you do it or laugh and criticize to a Polynesian about the Haka again, make sure I’m out of sight when you do it!

See my information to Monique above.

Posted by: Ken at May 16, 2010 6:55 PM

Only the Marxist grievance-mongers accuse the All-Blacks of the nonexistent crime of "cultural insensitivity" and we all know it is merely a part of their agenda to divide people and conquer. The rest of us see it a proud expression of New Zealand national heritage.

Posted by: BobN at May 16, 2010 8:13 PM

I like the Haka, but the only question I have is brought up in the article cited. Why are the All Blacks permitted to do the Haka and it's virtually required for the other team to watch and the other team can't do anything similar? The point of the Haka is to intimidate the opponent, so why is this one-sided? Let the other guys come out and break bricks with their head or anything else they want to do that'd be similar, or be like the Italians and just not watch and not have to face international scorn for doing so.

As for rugby being "unnecessary violence", rugby is less violent than football or ice hockey. I've played all three and the injuries are definitely lesser in rugby, and the sportsmanship is right up there with only golf. It's a great and can be an exciting game.

Posted by: Patrick at May 16, 2010 9:04 PM


Any team or group can do the Haka if they please, understand the moves and language,

It's fun to see two groups going at it doing the Haka trying to out do the other!

Posted by: Ken at May 16, 2010 9:14 PM

Ken writes:

"The Haka is a Polynesian cultural dance that has many forms performed by men, women, children and mixed groups of men, women and children throughout the islands of Polynesia."

I am sure that it is of great cultural significance. For all of that, it does seem cornball to me (as does a lot which has to do with sports). Perhaps I should go "run amok" for a while.

Here's a factoid, the New Zealand post office will not accept mail which has "ANZAC" written on it. It has been 60 years since that had a meaning. Oh well, our government forms still inquire about membership in the "Abraham Lincoln Brigade".

Posted by: Warrington Faust at May 16, 2010 9:27 PM

"why is this one-sided? Let the other guys come out and break bricks with their head or anything else they want to do that'd be similar"

Sure! Let both teams do the Haka before the game.

(Great suggestion, ChuckR.)

Posted by: Monique at May 17, 2010 8:05 AM

Let both teams do it? That's ridiculous. Why would Italy or England or Ireland do a haka? Why not make the All Blacks line up while the Irish guys smash their heads through a pile of bricks or anything else they want to do? Why does it have to be a haka? That's a Polynesian thing, so why would Europeans do it?

Posted by: Patrick at May 17, 2010 8:17 AM

Because it would look really cool for two teams to do the Haka!

But all right, you prefer nationalistic accuracy; that's fine. (In that spirit, for their Haka, the French Rugby team would stand around with their arms folded, smoking cigarettes and looking distinctly, characteristically put upon.)

Posted by: Monique at May 17, 2010 9:10 PM


In Hawaii when two opposing teams get on the field trying to out Haka each other it brings the whole stadium to their feet! It becomes a rhythmic battle like two drum and bugle corps trying to outplay each other with the 1812 overture!

Posted by: Ken at May 17, 2010 11:28 PM

I do the Haka every morning, all by myself.

Except for sometimes when my wife stands across from me and does her own Haka.

Never mind, that's only Saturday Nights.

Posted by: michael at May 18, 2010 4:53 PM


Posted by: Monique at May 18, 2010 7:05 PM
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