Haka

There's nothing more spectacular than watching Maori people perform one of their traditional war chants, the Haka, live.

This show undoubtedly brings a mix of culture and excitement that is hard to forget after the curtain drops and its time to go home.

When we hear the word Haka the first thing that comes to mind is New Zealand's rugby team, the All Blacks, performing the famous Ka mata. Watching it on TV or during a game from afar is already impressive enough to fill our hearts with adrenaline. But witnessing those feet stomping the ground with strength and precision, fists beating chests, intimidating gestures, and the well-known showing of the tongue, all in rhythmical choreographies; and when the theatre vibrates with all that energy which travels from the soles of our feet to the very tip of our hairs, that's another story.

The Haka production brought literally the best Maori performers in New Zealand. At last year's Te Matatini National Kapa Haka Festival (a Haka competition that occurs only every two years in New Zealand) the winner and runner-up decided to combine their skills and create a performance to showcase Maori culture around the world. There are no complicated garment or scenery changes, nor a set story. Men and women appear in the traditional flax piupiu (a skirt made of leaves), bearing tā moko patterns painted in the thighs, lips and face.

We were guided through this journey of Maori traditions with the aid of a charismatic narrator. From beautiful melodies celebrating Maori's beliefs (including their creator) harmonically delivered accompanied by a guitar, to the famous haka Ka mata, as well as other traditional games and demonstrations of usage of artefacts like the spear. Definitely the most touching moment of the programme was a tribute paid to the 28th Maori battalion who joined the allies during WWII.

The semi-circular shape of the theatre gave an excellent view of the performers from all angles. Yet, there were times when the voice of the narrator got lost in the strong chants of the piece in question, making it almost impossible to understand the descriptions. And though each part of the programme was extremely absorbing, we missed a crucial part of the show.

Though usually associated with the male counterpart, what Haka achieves marvellously is proving that this is a determined warrior culture for both its men and women. We were able to see Maori women perform delicate pieces using the poi (a pair of balls on string which women rhythmically move to the sound of a melody), and later transform their movements into intimidations.

This show undoubtedly brings a mix of culture and excitement that is hard to forget after the curtain drops and its time to go home. Certainly we many of us left the theatre feeling part of the Maori, and certainly we wished we could learn to perform a Haka as well.

Reviews by Natalia Equihua

Edinburgh College of Art

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Experience twenty-five of New Zealand's finest Kapa Haka performers in an electrifying display of Maori performing arts; the bulging eyes, the protrusion of the tongue, the act of defiance - Haka! Raw emotion meets melodious harmonies in a thrilling and poignant tribute to the warriors of the 28th Maori Battalion, known worldwide for their courage in Europe during WW2. From the fierce Haka of the menfolk, to the graceful women with their poi and mischievous ditties, Haka promises both a heart-wrenching and heart-warming voyage into Maoridom’s past. Te Matatini is the national organisation for Kapa Haka in New Zealand.