Action and Meaning: Examining the Haka tradition of the Maori people of New Zealand using the Circuit of Culture.

For the purpose of this research, I will be using the Circuit of Culture as a tool to analyse the cultural significance of the ancient Maori Haka tradition.


According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Maori’s compared the movement of air in the hot summer to the sacred dance of Tana-Rore, the son of the Sun god Tama-Nui-Tera. It is a fierce dance which involves violent movements like the slapping of the chest and thighs, powerful facial expressions which were often performed by traditional male warriors.


“Ka Mate”, the ritual currently followed by New Zealand’s Rugby team was originally introduced by chief Te Rauparaha in the early 19th century (Britannica, 2010). It is interesting to note that even though it was meant for battle preparation, it is being incorporated in celebratory events like weddings and birthdays as well as funerals. It was also performed by students at a teacher’s funeral in Manawatu (Time, 2015) However, In the modern times has been performed by people from  different cultures as well. Prince Harry performed the Haka dance at the Linton Military Camp(Time, 2015).


Is the current consumption in anyway obscuring the roots of the tradition? Are people from other cultures allowed to perform such a sacred dance? One could argue that when different cultures start embracing various cultural practices, there is an ethical responsibility to show respect and not culturally appropriate it for the purposes of leisure or marketing. It  can be perceived as a form of spiritual ignition that should be made accessible to everyone who wishes to experience it. But who sets the boundaries to prevent misuse?


The Haka tradition is particularly interesting because it always involves two entities. It could be performed between opponents, as a sign of respect for a person or as a celebration. Additionally, it is also used as process of healing.


Haka signifies courage and energy. Ha means life-force and Ka  means ignite (Reedy, 2006). It is a highly energetic ritual which involves foot stomping, bulging eyes, tongue protrusions and body slapping. The sounds produced throughout the dance add to the emotional output. Haka can be performed by both men and women which is quite interesting as the movements are mostly masculine and fierce (Britannica, 2010). It seems to induce a sense of fear in the opponent through the show of immense confidence and strength.




Britannica (2010), Haka, Available at: May 9, 2017).

Time(2015), Watch Prince Harry Do a Traditional Haka Dance in New Zealand, Available at: (Accessed: May 9, 2017).

Time(2015), Watch These Students Perform a Powerful Haka Dance at a Teacher’s Funeral, Available at: (Accessed: May 9, 2017).

Reedy, H.(2006), Haka For Life – Igniting Your Life – Force, Available at: (Accessed: May 9, 2017).


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