Violent foot-stamping, tongue protrusions, rhythmic body slapping, all together with a loud chant. This is the Haka. Most famously known for the performance made by New Zealand’s rugby team before every match to challenge their opponents.

New Zealand embraces this dance in order to pay respect to their Māori traditions. The Haka is the traditional Māori war dance used on the battlefield. It is derived from the indigenous Maori people of New Zealand and aligns with the wider Polynesian cultures of the Pacific. There are multiple reasons to perform the Haka, here is a list of most famous performance and their meanings:

  • War dance

The desired effect of this performance is to intimidate their opponents, which tends to be successful when done by 6 foot 5, 120-something kilo men screaming and shouting.

 

  • Empower women

The story of the most famous haka, Ka mate! is about the power of female sexuality. Today, the New Zealand Army also has its own unique Haka, opened and ended by female soldiers, acknowledging their special place in the armed forces.

 

  • Welcoming

The Haka evolved to be a sign of community. It became a way for communities to stay together and be stronger. Therefore, it is used in a lot of traditional Māori weedings to welcome the union of both families.

 

  • Respect

The word “Haka” simply means a dance or a song accompanied by dance. An example would be, the Haka performed at legendary rugby player Jonah Lomu’s memorial service was to express respect, pride, strength, and unity among the 8,000 people attending the funeral.

 

The rugby team made the Haka equivalent of New Zealand traditions. It is nationally used for important occasions such as weddings, funerals, local events and more. The Haka has evolved to become a symbol of New Zealand. For them, is not only about their tradition, this dance is what makes them unique, worthy and respectful to be called New Zealanders.