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The Haka

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The Haka and Humanities
Christina Mills
University of Phoenix
Thomas Uskali
August 24 2013

The Haka and Humanities Humanities are the branches of learning tasked with exploring and explaining and languages, literature, history, philosophy, and fine arts including: music, art, dance, and drama. A haka is a traditional dance performed by Maori men and women. Maori haka is performed for many reasons, celebrating success, welcoming distinguished guests, or as a pre-battle challenge (Maori, People & Culture n.d.). Before the White Men also known as the pakeha descended upon Aotearoa, now known as New Zealand, everything was passed orally from one generation to the next, this meant legends, rituals, songs, dances, beliefs of any kind were passed from father to son and mother to daughter. According to "Maori People & Culture" (n.d.), The most recognized of those traditions is the “Haka” - a war dance and a traditional genre of Maori dance. Warriors before a battle, in an effort to show their strength and in hopes of intimidating the enemy performed the Haka. Every part of the body meaning the hands, arms, legs or even eyes and tongue were used to demonstrate and give representation to the many types of instruments and emotions, connected to a specific occasion. According to Armstrong, (2005) in his book Maori Games & Instruction “It is disciplined, yet emotional. More than any other aspect of Maori culture, this complex dance is an expression of the vigor, passion and identity of the race. It is at its best, truly, a message of the soul expressed by posture and words.” Key elements in the Maori haka are pukana, the dilating of the eyes, whetero, a protruding tongue which is performed by men only, ngangahu an action similar to the pukana, and performed by both men and women, and potete a closing of the eyes at key times and done only by the women (Maori, People & Culture n.d.). These expressions signify meaning for the words and are used throughout the dance. There are different types of haka, one in particular the peruperu, was a ritual performed before a battle to call upon the god of war and to frighten the enemy (Maori, People & Culture n.d.). It was necessary for the haka to be completed in perfect unison or the people regarded it as a bad sign for the approaching battle. Warriors often went naked into battle, only with a plaited flax belt around the waist. The aim of warriors was to kill the members of the enemy so that no survivors would be able to take revenge (Maori, People & Culture n.d.). Maori warriors also performed another type of dance called the ngeri haka done in the absence of weapons; designed to encourage the warriors mentally. In the ngeri haka dancers are free to express their feelings through free flowing movements of their own design. Many countries perform dances to celebrate life’s events. During the blazing month of August, in the Southwestern United States, and often while it was quite dry, Native American tribes would dance in the hopes of creating rain. The people of Hawaii and many island tribes dance in celebration, before battle and during death rituals. We have seen throughout history similar practices in Africa. As far back as 1000 B.C., temple engravings depicting dancers performing during fertility rituals have been found in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece ("Belly dance: Unveiled", n.d.). I attended a dinner at the Maori Cultural Center in Rotarua, NZ. The experience was similar to a Hawaiian Luau with food cooked in the ground, lots of fresh fruit and poi. They Maori dancers performed a number of different haka dances and it was very interesting. The biggest difference between the Maori style celebration and a Hawaiian Luau was all the facial mannerisms and the vocal sounds made by the dancers themselves. I felt the same sense of passion and pride emanating from the men and women as they performed the haka they had learned as children as it was passed down from one generation to the next. You could see the joy on their faces and in the beautiful movements of their bodies.


Maori People & Culture. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Armstrong, A. (2005). Maori Games & Haka. Auckland, NZ: Reed

Belly dance: Unveiled. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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