This week it’s just Luke at the keys. So to those of you who wait outside Vic House with fiery torches and sharp pointy things, just waiting for us to pass by, we can leave Tom out of it.
For a young English boy moving halfway across the world to a foreign country, the New Zealand Haka was the absolute coolest thing ever. We had nothing like it back in the UK and it was the prelude to the greatest rugby team in the world. Learning the Haka meant that I could fit in and make friends. Not only that, but that it would make me a Kiwi—something I wanted more than anything at the age of 9.
I remember learning the Ka Mate Haka word for word, action for action, just from watching the television—long before we were ever made to learn it at school. When we visited our friends in England, they all asked us to perform it. We did, and I felt like a Kiwi. I loved the Haka.
So what has changed? Well, perspective.
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The Haka has been commercialised, tarnished and privileged. Who’s to blame? It’s certainly not the Arizona Wildcats, and it’s not the British Rugby Team. It’s us, New Zealand.
Recently radio stations, news networks and just idiots in general have posted videos of “other Hakas”, like the Rugby World Cup promo “the Hakarena”, and the Arizona Wildcats’ (football team) pre-game “Haka dance”. Their posts are usually accompanied by the question “What do we think of this?” The answer is both disappointing and ironic: A bunch of Kiwi yahoos shouting “ignorant!”.
The alternative Hakas gave us a great chance to show the world that our very young country is actually capable of maturity. But instead what we showed the world is that our culture differs from other people’s, not in our pre-game rituals, but in our inability to connect with the world beyond “they look like idiots!” and “have some respect!”.
We flaunt the Haka whenever there is a camera rolling. Adidas and Powerade commercialise it beyond belief. The honour associated with the Haka is lost; the very way we insist that other people “respect” what is essentially a threatening war dance has tarnished everything that I loved about the Haka when I was young. We have ripped it out of its historical context in exchange for advertising and tourism revenue.
If we want people to take our culture seriously, we need to start respecting other’s culture. The British have a great sense of humour, and most of it is self-deprecating. The Americans steal things. Our little island at the bottom of the world makes us feel removed, but the world is becoming increasingly connected. It’s time to grow up.
Tom and Luke