The Haka – Come Prancing? – updated

A writer for UK’s  The Sunday Times has torn-off NZ Rugby a strip, saying their Haka is a self-important bore and arrogant. (emphasis ours)

“IT WAS once a theatrical affair, loved by children and armchair fans, but the ridiculous bout of pre-game posturing has no place in rugby today.”

The article, re-published on The Australian‘s website, is going to cause more than a few ruffled Kahu Huruhuru in New Zealand, where many are already upset at outside interference  (Australian Unions) trying to help their NZ counterparts secure better employment rights and pay for NZ film workers.

But the Haka has changed, profoundly. The All Blacks and their followers have made it a self-important bore and instrument of the worst kind of sporting arrogance. How many Maoris believe that their tradition has been hijacked? And symbolically, it sometimes stops just short of an exhortation to murder. In one of its versions, it ends with the players making graphic throat-cutting gestures.

Opposition is growing. One recent critic of the Haka refers to a “politically correct lunacy” and a “cynical stage-managed circus“. Another calls the Haka “a bad joke” and another said the team performing it are like “preening ninnies“.

The reporter goes on to talk about the fine the Australian women’s side earned after daring to advance a few steps whilst the Haka was being performed.

Are NZ women, including Miss Universe contestants, supposed do the Haka? The haka is taonga, should it be even be performed by non Maori:  can pakeha haka?

Chief executive of the IRB, Mike Miller said of The Challenge:

“It is a traditional part of the game… If people want to develop something – not a response, not a war dance, but a traditional or cultural way of engendering that team spirit for a match, great. They should be able to and we should create the space to do it. It would be a shame if people said, ‘Let’s do away with it’, or felt the need to do some response that took away from the dignity and power of it.”

Whatever Miller is on about and whatever toadying we must expect towards New Zealand as their World Cup approaches, there were two aspects of the whole sorry mess that he got completely wrong.

First, the Haka in most forms is a call to war. If Miller doesn’t want the reaction, then he must ban the challenge. Secondly there has been no dignity whatsoever surrounding the performance of the Haka for many years.

Perhaps the All Blacks were at their most ludicrous at the Millennium stadium in 2006. By then, everybody realised the Haka was being performed not just for culture, but as an attempt to establish the kind of early psychological blow for which coaches are desperate.

Courageously the Welsh Rugby Union stood their ground. They did not ban the Haka, just announced it would precede the Welsh national anthem – in 99 per cent of Tests the home anthem is the final ceremonial act before kick-off.

New Zealand sulked to high heaven. They refused to do the Haka on the field. Instead, they let an unofficial crew come into their dressing room and, eventually, put out a film of them performing the Haka in the dressing room.

Afterwards, they bleated at this gross act of national insult – no mention of any insult to Wales and to their hosts’ anthem. And although the Kiwis tried to dictate the whole Haka process with a barrage of unwritten rules, the rules are always conveniently changing…more here

New Zealand – making the rules up as they go along? surely not!

Perhaps, in the interests of fair play for all and good sportsmanship, it’s time to stop Hakas at sporting events and stick to national anthems? Or at the very least restrict Hakas to the changing rooms if team spirits need to be “engendered” ?

Should  fans have to endure subliminal Nationbranding at sporting events?

The NZ Herald picked up on the story too and invited readers to comment, which many of them did:

We are a tiny country near the bottom of the world – who wants and needs to be noticed – I think it’s because everyone else feels sorry for us that they have let us continue with the haka – they used to jump up at the end of it but not now – might pull a hammy poor darlings – it is indulgent and I think has had it’s day.
I certainly wouldn’t want to have to watch some other country do that before a good game of rugby – let’s just get into the game and not posture – it’s pathetic – we’ve grown up now and don’t need special attention.

Read what else Kiwis thought about the article on the Herald’s website (link opens in new window)

Also read:

Strictly come prancing – The Times online

“…You could argue that it ill-becomes someone that big, who has just spent three minutes sticking his tongue out and slapping his pecs, to get all twitchy and thin-skinned just because a few Welshmen start staring at him…”

New Zealand Rugby Union upset after All Blacks haka imitation for Japanese Coca-Cola commerical – The Australian

“THE New Zealand Rugby Union is exploring its legal rights after a troupe imitated the All Blacks by performing a haka for a Japanese Coca-Cola commercial.

The haka also upset Maori who said the portrayal was disrespectful and want the campaign stopped. Coca-Cola Japan apologised for any offence caused, but has stuck to its guns saying it was an original haka and not Ka Mate…”

12 recipes for the country branding cookbookNationbranding

5. Etiquette.

“Polite and friendly nationals are the best ambassadors of a country brand. They can be serious like the Germans or attentive like the Japanese, but both as hosts and as tourists they represent the nation. Hosts inside the country and tourists overseas help other peoples figure how their country might be – they shape an image.

10. Visuals.

In order to help build an image, a country needs to be coherent in its visuals: from the flag to the colors of the sports teams, from stamps to banknotes, from passports to road signs. A country should find and keep a consistent look & feel in shapes, color schemes and typographies. Identify a national visual identity and color palette and dress with it. Almost always.

11. Sports.

Hosting world-class sports events may have been proved economically unefficient for some countries, but sportsmen are definetely worth investing. Just think about the service Nadia Comaneci, Cristiano Ronaldo or the Kenyan long distance runners have rendered or continue to render to Romania, Portugal and Kenya respectively.”

2 thoughts on “The Haka – Come Prancing? – updated

  1. The Haka is like some old family photos that get dragged out when guests come to visit,nobodies really interested but all have to look and smile politely ,the miss universe contestant did a version of a Haka at the beauty pageant,traditionally woman don’t participate in Haka so a strange choice .In my opinion her version should be used for our tourism marketing,she looked like a deranged housewife on meth undergoing a psychotic breakdown .

  2. Funny, the Irish times Matt Williams considered it unwarranted sanctioned bullying!
    “It used to be a celebration of the Maori culture in New Zealand but it is now a tool used to bully and intimidate the opposition” he said. He suggested they do it in their locker rooms if they felt they had to do it! The Guardian’s Frank Keating called it a “stupid stomp”. Whatever it is, doubtful they’ll stop cavorting around on the rugby field with it. Ka Mate was composed by Maori leader Te Rauparaha to celebrate the rescue of a soldier from battle, in 1820, so legally the copyright should have expired ages ago but they just copyrighted it a couple years ago. Can understand their wanting to exploit a branded dance cuz they need all the money they can get, and not protecting the haka weakens the brand. That is what they are all about, making money off a flavour they have distilled and coined.

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