Cultural Traditions: The Māori Haka

Britain Shakespeare
New Zealand's Ngakau Toa Theatre Company perform a traditional ceremonial 'haka' (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

 

Viral videos have the ability to bring the world together for something other than a shared global pandemic. Recently, a video that was the inspiration for a January 2016 “Cultural Traditions” post on the “Let Them Eat Cake” blog. It features a New Zealand couple emotionally looking on as their friends, family and wedding attendants perform a Māori haka during the wedding reception.

Kelly here – a friend shared this video with me and it sparked a long conversation about the native chant and an equally as long dive into the depths of YouTube for other amazing hakas performed ourside of weddings.

We wanted to share the cultural background and original video with you again in an effort to celebrate different cultures and people from around the world who are all affected by the current global crisis. Enjoy!

-KM


Last week, a beautifully chilling video surfaced out of New Zealand. In it, a bride and groom emotionally watch on as their friends and family perform a native chant. Although outside of the traditional realm of these types of wedding performances, the video ended up captivating and resonating with people from all over the world.

The chant-like performance is a haka. The haka is an ancient war dance of the Māori people of New Zealand. The haka is meant to symbolize a tribe’s unity and pride. Though originally used in times of war to intimidate the opponent, a haka is still used in modern times during Māori ceremonies or celebrations as a symbol of peace, to honor guests and to show the significance of the occasion. While the look and feel of a haka can be aggressive, with body slapping and tongue protrusions, the loud chant is actually quite poetic and usually talks of the tribe’s ancestors and their history.

 

In a little over 24 hours, the haka performed by family and friends at the wedding of Aaliyah and Benjamin Armstrong had been viewed more than 19 million times. Aaliyah told CNN, “We knew that they’d organized a haka, but not that scale.” The couple can be seen becoming emotional during the performance and ultimately jump in to reciprocate the love and respect back to their friends. The bride’s cousin, who filmed the presentation and put the video online, told CNN in response to the video feedback, “We do hakas all the time in New Zealand, but we never expected that reaction.”

For us, the most emotional part was at the end when the groom thanked the dancers in a traditional Māori greeting by touching his forehead to theirs.

No matter what your cultural background or traditions may be, the most important and inspiring part is the love and respect given by everyone involved.

 

Click here to view the full wedding video.

 

Categories: Let Them Eat Cake