Many of you would have seen the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team doing the haka before the start of a test match. It is often called a war dance, but it is more than just that. It is also a challenge and a mark of respect that can be given or received in Maori culture.
The Haka (plural is the same as singular: haka) is a traditional ancestral war cry, dance or challenge from the Māori people of New Zealand. It is a posture dance performed by a group, with vigorous movements and stamping of the feet with rhythmically shouted accompaniment. The New Zealand rugby team‘s practice of performing a haka before their matches has made the dance more widely known around the world.
Haka are performed for various reasons: for amusement, as a hearty welcome to distinguished guests, or to acknowledge great achievements, occasions or funerals.
Last night my son had his House Leavers Dinner at Wanganui Collegiate School. The school is a Co-ed Boarding school for kids aged 13-18.
The Year 13 lads (17 and 18 year olds) have finished school and are now heading off into the world to University and working life. The Leavers gave a rendition of their Grey House haka to their younger house-mates and the parents and teachers in attendance. The rest of the house (boys aged 13/13 through to 16/17) gave the school haka back in response.
The dinner was held in what is known as “Big School”, the main classroom block at Wanganui Collegiate. It has the look and feel of a medieval Great Hall. A fantastic setting. Behind the boys are the names of all the Old Boys who fought and in many cases died in WWI and WWII.
Sorry about the cheap cell phone quality but it was all I had on me at dinner.
Haka are embraced in schools here. This clip is of all the boys giving the Rowing team the traditional send off before the New Zealand Secondary Schools Championships.
For you Americans, here is the school doing the School haka for the USA Eagles when they were here for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
And for a real tear jerker. Army welcoming home soldiers of their battalion who fell in battle in Afghanistan.
People either love it or hate it but for me I never hear a haka without feeling an emotional response.