Haka, The Epitome of Everlasting New Zealand’s Heritage

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What benefit have you felt from globalization? Indeed, we live in an era where everything is easy for us to like never before. But have you ever questioned if globalization also has a negative impact? Just like everything, of course, it comes with good and bad sides. One of the negative impacts of globalization is the degradation of people and culture. This brings us to the confusion between the authenticity of self-identity. Consequently, there has been false-aimed to recognize general identity by proclaiming a lot of cultural appreciation without being solemn from up to the root of its origin.

Obviously, it’s not an individual or commodity’s mistake. Instead, this phenomenon tends to be a mutation of culture rather than a mistake. Fortunately, there are many countries that try to reassemble their national identity through the restoration of indigenous heritage. New Zealand is one of the countries that could maintain both of the confusion through the preservation of one of their crucial traditions and rituals called Haka.

What is Haka? Have you ever heard of it? Haka is one of New Zealand’s traditional actions, activities, rituals, ceremony or anything equally defined which still long-alive exists side by side with modern people’s life. Haka is a kind of dance from Māori specifically that has a strong bond with ritual or formal events, such as weddings, birthdays, ceremonies, etc. A long time ago, Haka was used for the war between parties and people in each party facing each other to show the dance as a prologue before the war began.

The dance is composed of people standing shoulder to shoulder with enough space (around 30 centimeters between), tongue protruding scenes, wide-eyed expression, rhythmically whacking their chest, thighs, a big step of foot stamp, also an echoing howl-chant.

There are many types of Haka. According to Steven and Brendan’s Sport, Tribes and Technology (2002) cited from Black Personal Communication (2000) mentioned, Haka is a general name for all of the kind dance or traditional ceremonial movements in Māori culture which is so many branches from its definition to explain a variety of Haka based on the purpose of Haka itself. Formerly, Haka was laden with pre-war tradition. Traditionally, it’s performed by men who show their most unyielding facial expressions toward their opponent without pigeonholing their purpose to pray for their victorious war to God. Then after passing through colonization and long contemporary historical tragedy, Haka slightly encountered a different form of its performance’s purpose. It started to be meant for valuable occasions such as national conferences, weddings, birthdays, or other types of formal events. It has a crystal-clear radix until Haka plays along with those functions.

After British colonization, Haka started to be seen as a stage-theatrical performance in European eyes. It began in 1897 when there was a big celebration toward the British army’s victorious war in London. New Zealand decided to bring their – Māori blood- soldiers, together with pakeha troops. After landing, New Zealand’s soldiers perform Haka traditionally at the event. Performers were told to use a ‘perform costume’ in order to play aesthetical elements in every step of permanence that is more seen as primitive rather than costuming for audience pleasing importance only.

Since then, Haka started to mutate its function from sacred ritual to an aesthetical purpose ceremony. It may sound pitiful, but many researchers such as Balme in his Hula and Haka: Performance, Metonymy, and Identity Formation in Colonial Hawaii and New Zealand ( 1999) and other Māori fellows out there might see this phenomenon as a tragic result of colonization. Unfortunately, we humans must go on and live our ‘now’ time. New Zealanders themselves mostly accepted what was going on and excruciatingly swallowed its history and tried to step up their level by gaining a new version of Haka’s value. The generosity of New Zealanders and Māori people shown by sagaciously owning their Haka as a national treasure which needs to be protected via generating Haka value, definition, history, movement, chant, formation, and spirit to all of the young people, the next leader of their generation, especially young New Zealanders.

The new yet still authentic Haka is shaped in every possibility that might raise the next generation’s eyes, thus it’s going to be everlasting for a couple of hundred years to go. Steven and Brendan (2002) said in 1888, a national football team called The New Zealand Native Football Representative flew to Britain and Australia, thereafter they performed Haka with the intention to show their vigor and strength in front of colonials. So on, the form of Performed Haka with Sport brings the double function of Haka itself, first as cultural ritual together with national identity and secondly, an entertainment purpose for British (or other nation) interest. These days, you can find Haka’s newest form out on the internet by clicking New Zealand’s Rugby Competition. They show us how Haka represent New Zealanders and Māori people wrapped in their indigenous and originality but still fit in the modern spirit. Besides that, we can see how excited students in New Zealand give their best Haka to a principal, teachers, families, and even to an audience in some school competitions. It clearly shows that they never let us or other parties interfere with their identity in every way, every possible, every chance, every moment, because they keep Haka clearly, purely, wisely with their families. New Zealander makes a solemn effort to protect their tradition even in this speedy modernity. It could be the best epitome of how the indigenous and traditional elements stay everlasting in proper ways.

Written by: Sri Widari


  3. Balme, C. B. (1999). Hula and haka: performance, metonymy and identity formation in colonial Hawaii and New Zealand. Humanities research, (3), 41-58.
  4. Jackson, S. J., & Hokowhitu, B. (2002). Sport, tribes, and technology: The New Zealand All Blacks haka and the politics of identity. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 26(2), 125-139.