Indigenous Studies Expert Komene Kururangi on the Significance of the Māori Haka Dance

Students, bikers, and other groups are performing the artform haka to pay tribute of the New Zealand attacks.

“When they roll the eyes back, and thy poke the tongue out, you can show your empathy but then you can also definitely show your frustration. You can show your anger towards this vile, cruel act of terrorism through haka,” University of Canterbury lecturer Komene Kururangi explained.  

Kururangi lectures on Māori and Indigenous studies. Since he was a boy, he’s been performing haka, a traditional artform of New Zealand’s Māori people. In the days since the attack, members of the Māori community have publicly performed haka to pay tribute to the 50 people killed in the mosque attacks.

“Haka is one facet of Māori performing arts that we have practiced since the dawn of time. It’s been misconstrued to be just a war dance, it has deep and intrinsic meaning and an emphasis on what you say,” Kururangi said. “If you split the word up, haka — “ha” means breath and “ka” means to light up or to ignite.”

Haka is so ingrained in New Zealand’s culture, many non- Māori also know the dance.

“Even the immigrants feel like it’s their duty to uphold the knowledge systems of the Māori people here,” Kururangi said. “They feel it’s their responsibility to come and learn when they come to Aotearoa [New Zealand.]”