Opinion: The continuing assassination of the haka

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The 'Haka'rena' is another attempt to not only undermine the All Blacks' pre-game ritual, but also an entire aspect of our Maori culture and heritage . Photo: Facebook/Jamaco
The 'Haka'rena' is another attempt to not only undermine the All Blacks' pre-game ritual, but also an entire aspect of our Maori culture and heritage . Photo: Facebook/Jamaco

The most recent attempt by former English rugby captain Matt Dawson to imitate or lampoon the haka is just another notch in a long line of attempts to undermine and devalue Maori culture.

I mean, for a split second, and I mean the smallest of fractions that can be taken from a second, I had a little giggle to myself when I saw the video.

Was I giggling more at the ridiculousness of how these guys looked? Most likely. Did I giggle at the lampooning of a traditional part of our culture that signifies the mana of not only the people performing it, but also those who have left this world? Absolutely not.

And after the deep-rooted sentiment of hate that naturally runs through every ounce of my being for the initial outrage at this video had subsided, I realised, that if anything, I pitied the ignorance and lack of understanding of something as worldly as this version of the haka.

And that is the keyword: Understanding.

You have a marketing company and clothing company, who every day ensure they are meeting consumer and commercial requirements, yet to gather exposure, have decided to lampoon a cultural practice from the other side of the world. And no effort has been made to understand what this practice is all about.

Wait a second. That’s not lack of understanding. That isn’t even ignorance. That isn’t even just arrogance. With all the talk and media coverage in the United Kingdom at the moment around the haka and how it impacts the All Blacks and the game they play, this is more.

This is an effort to undermine not only the All Blacks cultural heritage associated with the haka, but it is an effort to undermine and assassinate the ‘character’ of haka and everything that it means.

To some of us Maori, this is not anything new. I can remember stories that my grandmother would tell of how they were physically punished for speaking Te Reo Maori at school.

The entire performance aspect of Kapa Haka was suppressed unless in a tourism context and even the own All Blacks practice and performance of the haka, until a decade ago, was a display of ineptitude of understanding and expression.

Jamaco clothing is not the first company to use the haka to make money. Coca-Cola Japan in 2010 used the haka in a disrespectful manner for a Coke Zero commercial. Fiat had done the same in the past also.

Even the overuse of the haka in alcohol-fueled scenarios is starting to get a little over the top, not to mention Bryon Kelleher’s Haka Corner proposed pub in France.

The haka that the All Blacks perform, Ka Mate, which since 2014 is recognised as the property of Ngati Toa Rangitira, is a story of Ngati Toa war leader Te Rauparaha and his escape from Ngati Maniapoto and Waikato tribes by hiding in a food storage pit before being greeted by a friendly chief, Te Whareangi.

The use of Ka Mate in the same breath as the Macrena is a disgrace on its own, let alone the use of overtly cheesy and poor dancing.

Either way, it is another example of a commercial entity that is using the aura and heritage of the haka in a humorous fashion, and the longer that we allow this to continue, the more it will happen and further damage and destroy not just the haka, but an aspect of our heritage and mana that is now not only important to just Maori, but all New Zealanders.

Dan Mcleod from Orakei is of Ngati Whatua, Te Taou, Nga Oho and Te Uri o Hau whakapapa.