When you think of New Zealand what is the first thing you think about? Beautiful scenery, mountains, and lakes? To many sports fans and non-sports fans alike it would be the All Blacks and their wonderful pre-match war cry; the Haka.
What Is the Haka and When Is It Performed?
The Haka started as a war dance. It was performed by different Māori tribes on the battlefield to scare their opponents and for morale. They believed that they were calling upon the God of war to help them win their battle. Over time, it took on new meanings off the battlefield. Today, the Haka can be seen at Maori ceremonies and celebrations and can show the importance of an occasion which includes family events like birthdays and weddings.
The Haka at Funerals
The Maori, being very spiritual, believe that when someone dies their spirit is passed to the Pohutukawa tree which is in Cape Reinga in the far north of North Island which is as far as a person can go in New Zealand. The spirit never leaves the body until the person has been buried. Once the spirit arrives at the Pohutukawa tree it passes down one of the roots of the tree into the sea before rejoining their ancestors. The Maori are a very holistic race with a great respect for the Earth.
The Haka at Weddings
At weddings the Haka is performed to show respect and will be performed in front of the happy couple.
Ka Mate, Ka Mate; The Haka of the All Blacks
With its violent foot stamping, facial expressions and loud chanting, the Haka is both feared and respected at the same time. Facing this before playing against the greatest Rugby team in the world must be quite intimidating and since The All Blacks first started performing the Haka it has been putting the fear of God into many rugby players around the world.
Famous Maori Chief Te Rauparaha of the Ngati Toa Rangatira tribe composed the Ka Mate Haka in the early 19th century which eventually became the original All Blacks Haka.
The story goes that Te Rauparaha was fleeing from an angry enemy tribe who were after him for some wrong doings Te Rauparaha had committed against them. As he was chased over the North Island a fellow chief, Te Wharerangi assisted him and helped him hide in a pit then instructed his wife to sit at the pit entrance.
When the enemy moved on, Te Rauparaha buoyed by his lucky escape and in jubilant mood performed the Ka Mate in front of Te Wharerangi and his people which he had composed whilst being deep in the pit.
“Ka Mata”, to many New Zealanders. is like a national anthem and is taught in schools and colleges across New Zealand. Many budding All Blacks will practice it in front of a mirror, so they are ready for when that All Blacks call up comes.
The Haka may seem like a male dominated performance, but it can be performed by anyone and in fact there are some haka which are performed only for women. In fact, the New Zealand Army has its own unique Haka, opened, and ended, by female soldiers, acknowledging their special place in the armed forces.
Where Can I Learn More, and See the Haka Performed?
Apart from seeing it at an All Blacks Rugby match, the Haka can be seen being performed all over New Zealand and at some places, you will be invited to take part! A daunting experience in itself. But equally a very enjoyable experience and one you will remember fondly forever, and we speak from experience.
See the Haka Performed at the Bay of Islands
The Waitangi Treaty Grounds just outside Paihia is one of the most historically significant places in New Zealand and a beautiful setting within the Bay of Islands. This was where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed which established the British colony of New Zealand in 1840. The museum is fascinating and really brings to life the history of New Zealand.
See the Haka Performed in Auckland
The wonderful Auckland Museum has an extensive collection of Maori treasures. Guided tours available and daily Maori cultural performances culminating in an exciting version of the Haka.
See the Haka Performed in Rotorua
Rotorua is steeped in Maori cultural history and subsequently offers many places where you can see the Haka performed and one of those places is Tamaki Maori Village, where they will entertain you with an interactive evening showing you cooking, games and crafts of the Maori people through the ages. It really is a wonderful place. Will you be chosen as a Chief for the evening?
See the Haka Performed in Queenstown
At the top of the Gondola is the Kiwi Haka Show. The show will take you on a journey through traditional song and dance to celebrate the proud Maori history.
See the Haka Performed in Wellington
The Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa, provides guided tours which will offer a fascinating insight into Maori culture through stories and art.
There are many other places to see the Haka and enjoy the wonderfully welcoming Maori culture throughout New Zealand. At Silver Fern Holidays we try and include a Maori evening or experience in all our New Zealand holidays and we are sure you will have the most fascinating and enjoyable time learning about the history and traditions of the Maori people.