The Haka

Literally, the term "haka" means "dance" whatever it is. There were many kinds of haka in pre-European times, depending on the occasion. There were haka of song and joy, and haka of war, "utu" (revenge) hakas that we danced before going to battle. The war hakas were of two types: The one that was danced without a weapon, generally to express personal or collective feelings, and which was the “haka taparahi”, and the one that was danced with the weapons, the “haka peruperu” .


The Haka

We danced the “haka peruperu”, traditionally, before going to battle, with the weapons used in war.

I a hei ha! At this call, the warriors prepared for the "peruperu" haka, during which they were thoroughly inspected by the elders. If the

It was a way to summon the god of war, and to warn the enemy of the fate that awaited him. This haka was danced with fierce facial expressions - grimaces, stuck out tongue, bulging eyes, grunts and screams, waving the weapons of war.

The warrior who led the "taua" - war platoon - stood in the center of the group to shout:

"Tika tonu mai
Tika tonu may
Ki ahau e noho nei
Tika tonu mai I a hei ha! " 

Which means :

"Come over here, come over to me
To this place where I am now
Come right through here
I a hei ha! "

At this call, the warriors prepared for the "peruperu" haka, during which they were thoroughly inspected by the elders. If the haka was not danced in full synchronization, it could be seen as an omen of disaster for the coming battle.

The haka was performed as a challenge to the enemy. The warriors fixed their eyes on those of the enemies. Sometimes we insisted on a particular gesture, like a movement of the arm mimicking that of an ax, to warn the opponent of the fate that awaited him. Very often the warriors went to war naked, except, at the waist, a linen belt used to hang small clubs.

The haka could also be used for large festivities, or to extend a special welcome to a distinguished guest. A haka could also express grievance, or, in ancient times, be a prayer addressed to one of the Māori gods.

Today, it is often the haka of "Te Rauparaha" which usually accompanies all cultural or sporting events, such as rugby matches.

War expeditions were generally made up of men, but women were not necessarily exempt from this activity.

Māori warriors outdid themselves in the art of raiding and ambushing, appearing and disappearing quickly and quietly in the dense rainforest of New Zealand. Warriors usually attacked at dawn. During an expedition, it was necessary to succeed in killing all the enemies, so that there was no risk of "utu" (revenge). When one envisioned a lasting peace with the enemy, one organized an inter-tribal marriage to guarantee the pact of peace.

The war expeditions were organized with the greatest care, which also involved complex rituals and abstinence from certain foods and certain practices.

The expedition was dedicated to Tumatauenga, the god of war, and special rites ensured a “tapu” around the warrior. On his return, he had to practice a purifying rite to lift the “tapu”.