24 people found this article useful

The Maori Haka: Its Meaning & History

Tourism NZ

What is the meaning of The Haka?

If you have heard anything about the New Zealand culture, no doubt you will have heard about the Haka. This captivating chant seen at many important New Zealand events, most famously before a rugby match against the All Blacks, has made the world more intrigued by the Maori culture. Of course, a great way to learn more is to come and experience the Maori culture for yourself in New Zealand. But to give you more context about the importance of the Haka and what the Haka means to the Maori people, we have put together this quick guide to the Maori Haka.

The Maori culture goes way beyond the Haka though, so we recommend you immerse yourself either by attending a cultural show, experiencing a hangi meal, learn about greenstone carving and more!

Where did the Haka come from?

Because Moari history has been passed down through songs and the spoken word, there’s not a clear story on where the haka first came from. However, there are a couple of common stories associated with the haka.

The Haka in Maori Legend

There are many Maori legends to suggest where the Haka came from, but one common legend is that of the sun god, Ra. His summer maid, Hine-raumati, made the air seam to dance and quiver on hot days. This is reflected in the quivering motion that haka performers do with their hands.

The Haka is Maori history

One early rendition of the haka being used was by chief Tinirau and the women in his tribe. He wanted revenge on a tohunga (priest) called Kae who was responsible for killing Tinirau’s pet whale. He sent his tribes’ women to hunt Kae down but all they knew about him was that he had crooked teeth. Upon arriving at their opposing tribe, they performed the haka to make the men smile and reveal Kae’s teeth, thus his identity.

Learn more about the Maori history in this quick guide.

Working Holiday Insurance

BackpackerGuide.NZ

Different types of Haka

While there are far more haka than the one listed below, here are a few of the main types of Maori haka.

Peruperu Haka

The Peruperu is a type of haka performed as a “war dance”, as it was traditionally performed before a battle. It is characterised by leaps where the legs are pressed under the body and weapons are usually used. The sticking out of the tongue and bulging eyes is meant to intimidate the opponents, as well as invoke the God of War.

Ngeri Haka

The Ngeri haka has a different purpose to motivate both performers and warriors. It’s usually performed without weapons and movements are more free as a sign of the performers expressing themselves.

Manawa wera haka

This haka is usually performed at funerals or after somebody’s death. Again, no weapons are used and the movement is more free.

To learn more about how to pronounce Maori words, take a look at our te reo Maori guide.

BackpackerGuide.NZ

Who can perform the haka?

Long answer short; anyone can perform the haka as long as it is done with seriousness and respect. Traditionally, both males and females perform the haka, but there are certain haka involving only women and same goes for the men.

Of course, traditionally, only the Maori performed the Haka but since New Zealand had a mixed population of Maori and Pakeha (non-Maori New Zealanders) are involved in performing haka. In fact, they even teach the haka in New Zealand schools.

Alasdair Massie on Wikipedia

The All Blacks Haka

The most famous haka heard internationally is the Ka Mate Haka. This is the haka performed by the national New Zealand rugby team, the All Blacks. The main body of the chant goes like this:

Ka Mate Haka

Ka mate, ka mate! ka ora! ka ora!
Ka mate! ka mate! ka ora! ka ora!
Tēnei te tangata pūhuruhuru
Nāna nei i tiki mai whakawhiti te rā
Ā, upane! ka upane!
Ā, upane, ka upane, whiti te ra!

English translation of the Ka Mate Haka

‘Tis death! ’tis death! (or: I may die) ’Tis life! ‘tis life! (or: I may live)
’Tis death! ‘tis death! ’Tis life! ‘tis life!
This is the man
Who brought the sun and caused it to shine
A step upward, another step upward!
A step upward, another… the Sun shines!

BackpackerGuide.NZ

The history of the Ka Mate haka

The Ka Mate Haka was composed in 1820 by a war leader of the Ngati Toa iwi (tribe) called Te Rauparaha. He was fleeing his enemies from the Ngati Maniapoto iwi and the Waikato. He was given refuge on the shores of Lake Rotoaira at a site called Opotaka. He hid in a kumara pit. It was here that he was said to utter the words “Ka mate, ka mate, ka ora, ka ora”, continuing to compose the lyrics to the Ka Mate haka until his pursuers never found him and when Te Rauparaha emerged from the pit and was befriended by the tribe at Opotaka.

Te Rauparaha’s haka was a celebration of life over death, rather than a war dance.

Opotaka

You can visit the very site and even the kumara pits where the Ka Mate Haka was born at Opotaka on the road between Turangi and the Tongariro National Park on the North Island. The site is well sing-posted off State Highway 47 about 13km from Turangi.

If you liked this article, then you might like…

Flying Kiwi
Was this article useful? Useful Useless
Help other travellers, share this article now:
Pin
HiFX - Money Transfer

Most Popular Videos

Video Thumbnail
Video Thumbnail
Video Thumbnail
BackpackerGuide.NZ
South Island Hostels

5 Best Backpacker Hostels in Twizel

Where to stay in Twizel on a budget? But wait a minute, [...]

Haka Lodge
North Island Hostels

8 Best Backpacker Hostels in Taupo

Affordable accommodation in Taupo. In the adventure capital of the North Island, [...]

HiFX - Money Transfer
Hot on Backpacker Guide
Art & Culture
https://photos.travelblog.org/Photos/20501/84430/f/529256-Shag-Point-0.jpg

10 Funny Place Names in New Zealand

Funniest Place Names in New Zealand. Maoris and Europeans alike have clearly […]

Inspiration
Pixabay

10 Super Unique Things in New Zealand

What makes New Zealand unique? Think New Zealand is just like every […]

Art & Culture
Backpackerguide.nz

8 Cultural Experiences in Auckland

Where to find cultural experiences in Auckland. What great city is a […]

We use cookies to understand how you use our site and to improve your experience. This includes personalizing content and advertising. To learn more, click here. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, revised Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.
I accept

Menu