Experience the energy and awe of the haka. The haka is a passionate, traditional Māori dance famous around the world.
What is the haka?
The haka is a ceremonial Māori war dance or challenge. Haka are usually performed in a group and represent a display of a tribe's pride, strength and unity.
Actions include the stomping of the foot, the protrusion of the tongue and rhythmic body slapping to accompany a loud chant. The words of a haka often poetically describe ancestors and events in the tribe's history.
When is the haka performed?
Traditionally, the haka was performed when two parties met as part of the customs around encounters.
For example, the haka was used on the battlefield to prepare warriors mentally and physically for battle, but it was also performed when groups came together in peace.
Today, haka are still used during ceremonies and celebrations to honour guests and show the importance of the occasion. This includes family events, like birthdays, graduations, weddings and funerals.
Haka in sports
Haka are also used to challenge opponents on the sports field. The New Zealand rugby team, the All Blacks, perform the haka before each match in a stunning show of strength and physical prowess.
The All Blacks use 'Ka Mate' as their haka, which was composed in the 1820s by the rangatira (chief), Te Rauparaha. The words to this particular haka have become famous around the world since it became a part of the pregame ritual of the All Blacks.
The Black Ferns, New Zealand's women's rugby team, are also famous for performing rousing haka. The haka they perform before an international match is called 'Ko Uhia Mai' which means 'Let it be known' and was composed by Whetu Tipiwai.
Regular haka waiata sessions enable the All Blacks and Black Ferns to honour their cultural roots and traditions.
Who can perform the haka?
One common misconception around haka is that it should only be performed by males.
While there are some haka that can only be performed by men, there are others that can be performed by anyone and even some women-only haka.
Non-Māori are welcome to learn the haka; however, it's important that you respect the culture and traditions behind the dance. Learn the words and make sure you understand the meanings behind the chants, the significance of a particular haka and what you are trying to express when performing it.
The origin of the haka
TheMāori legenddescribing the origin of the haka paints it as a celebration of life.
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.
Where to see the haka
Apart from going to watch the All Blacks play rugby, there are plenty of places where you can witness a live haka.