Maybe you have seen the dance that “All Blacks” team performs before a game and how powerful and terrifying they look. But, did you know that this kind of dance is also performed in social events?
Haka means dance and originally was a war dance meant to intimidate and scare the enemy, showing the passion and strength of the tribe. The legend has it that Tamanui-to-ra (The sun god) had two wives: Hine-ramauti (summer) and Hine-takurua (winter). Tamanui-to-ra and Hine-raumati had a son called Tane-rore who is the trembling of the air that is observable in the hot days of summer; his presence is represented by the quivering of the hands in the dance.
In a performance, the haka dancers show the white of their eyes and their tongue, while clapping hands, rhythmically slapping them against their body and violently stomping with their feet. Male and female can dance it, in fact, there are some haka specially made for women (ka panapana).
In the past, they grunted and cried to the ancestors asking for help so they could win the battle, while using their weapons and doing fierce facial expression; this was the peruperu. But nowadays, the weapons are not used anymore, because the dance takes place in other type of celebrations such as welcoming visitors, important events and even funerals; this type of haka is named taparahi.
The haka is not only a dance, actually it’s a meaningful expression of pride and unity. What this practice represents should be an example for us to appreciate our own cultural origins and to preserve them as part of our identity.
Would you imagine us dancing or watching a group performing the pürún (Mapuche’s dance) during an important celebration? We may dance cueca, but what about our indigenous origins?
Before finishing this entry, I’d like you to read this definition of Haka provided by Alan Armstrong in 1964. Even though he’s not Māori, I consider that what he says can improve our understanding of the importance of this practice for Māori people and its meaning:
“Hands, feet, legs, body, voice, eyes and tongue all play their part in joining together to bring in their fullness the challenge, welcome, exultation, defiance or contempt of the words. It is disciplined, yet emotional. More than any other aspect of Maori culture, this complex dance is an expression of the vigor, passion and identity of the race. It is at its best, truly, a message of the soul expressed by posture and words.’’
And finally, here you have some pictures of a typical Māori welcoming (including the haka, of course), but pay attention to the visitors. Do you think this symbolizes national versus foreign identity?
By Carla Menares