Friday, February 13, 2009

Haka: Not "Odd"

Once upon a time the British went all over the world collecting "exotic" specimens and generally going on about how weird everyone else in the world was. And it seems that this aspect of their culture persists in behaviors such as putting the Maori Haka in their "Odd Box" along with chocolate pedicures, a stoat freaking out and the philharmonic orchestra doing a comedy piece with whoopie cushions. The coverage itself was no more than mildly condescending but the exhibition of the Haka as an oddity is just not respectful--especially with no effort made at all to understand its real purpose and meaning.

I wondered for a moment if this post was off topic, but it isn't. This blog deals less with "women" and more with gender. And the Haka is not a curiosity, it is a dance and demonstration that is a crucial part of performing both masculinity and femininity within Maori culture. The dance types referred to more generally as Kapa Haka include the Haka which is a challenge made to a visiting group to determine their intentions, they come in male and female forms and range from a rejoicing welcome to a prelude to battle (or an attempt to avoid it by demonstrating overwhelming prowess).

The All Blacks (national rugby team) use a ceremonial Haka, Ka Mate. Other Haka for women include Ka Panapana and Ake Ake Kia Kaha. These dances are every bit as important and meaningful as a national anthem, flag, religious icon or prayer. And the Maori performers are taking them to the UK with goodwill and respect. Perhaps they should receive the same in return? The Haka is, at its very heart, a statement that these are people worthy of respect.

Ka Panapana

A ra ra!
Ka panapana,
A ha ha
Ka rekareka tonu taku ngakau
Ki nga mana ririki
i pohatu whakapiri
Kia haeramai te takitini,
Kia haeramai te takimano,
Kia pare-taitokotia ki Rawhiti ... A ra ra,

It is throbbing!
A ha ha!
My heart is throbbing with delight
for the common people,
like stones stuck together
They've come in their multitudes
They've come in their thousands
and alighted upon the Eastern sea.

Ka Mate

Ka mate, ka mate
Ka ora, Ka ora
Tēnei te tangata pūhuruhuru
Nāna nei i tiki mai whakawhiti te rā
Ā upane, ka upane
Ā upane, ka upane
Whiti te rā, hī!

'Tis death, 'tis death
'Tis life, 'tis life
This the hairy man that stands here
who brought the sun and caused it to shine
A step upward, another step upward
A step upward, another step upward
The sun shines!

1 comment:

Benjamin Solah said...

I've always enjoyed watching the Haka in football matches and other sporting events. It's freaking cool and so it's a bit odd that the English would even try to portray it as odd.

I am sure there are some fucking odd things about our culture, if seen from their perspective.