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New haka gets public approval

Published: 7:51PM Saturday July 08, 2006 Source: ONE Sport

The controversial new haka Kapa O Pango has been given the thumbs up in a new poll by the New Zealand Rugby Union.

The "throat-cutting" haka, which was used in the opening Tri-Nations game of the season against Australia at Jade Stadium on Saturday, had been at the centre of widespread debate about its suitability.

NZRU Chief executive Chris Moller said the review highlights a need for education.

"We need to promote understanding of haka. The concern about Kapa O Pango's final gesture makes that clear."

While the haka's final movement has regularly been described as a cut-throat gesture, the review emphasised that its meaning within Maori culture and the tradition of haka is very different.

Composer Derek Lardelli said that Kapa O Pango ends with the word 'Ha' which translates as the breath of life. "The words and motions represent drawing vital energy into the heart and lungs."

The right arm searches for the 'Ha' on the left side of the body, Lardelli explained, while the head turns to the right also symbolically seeking vital energy.

The right hand hauls that energy into the pou-whakaora (the heart, lungs and air passages), then the eyes and tongue signal that the energy has been harnessed before it is expelled with the final 'Ha.'

New Zealand Maori Rugby Board Chairman Paul Quinn has echoed the call for education. "It's important to understand the meaning and significance of haka. Any art is open to interpretation, so knowing the history and tradition behind it is vital.

Quinn noted that the All Blacks take haka around the world and the introduction of Kapa O Pango has seen renewed interest in haka within New Zealand as well.

"The new haka is a chance to promote New Zealand and Tikanga Maori. The next step is to see how we can utilise it to create understanding of our culture."

Moller said that the review was conducted in response to anecdotal reports that some New Zealanders were uncomfortable with Kapa O Pango. "We've learned that most Kiwis are right behind it, but we want to address the concerns as well," he said, "and hence the emphasis on a fuller explanation."

The review involved consultation with kaumatua, the current All Blacks and Kapa O Pango's composer, Derek Lardelli, as well as an independent poll of the views of both the rugby community and New Zealanders in general.

The Colmar Brunton poll of more than 500 New Zealanders showed that nearly 90% of New Zealanders support the All Blacks' performance of haka, and that 60% favour the use of Kapa O Pango alongside the traditional All Blacks haka, Ka Mate .

The need for education is highlighted by the fact that although a majority of New Zealanders believe Kapo O Pango is appropriate, 37% of New Zealanders also think the final gesture should be removed and a significant 17% have no opinion.

Highlights of research conducted by Colmar Brunton for the NZRU:

  • 88% of New Zealanders support the All Blacks' performance of the haka
  • 60% of New Zealanders believe it is appropriate for the All Blacks to perform  either Ka Mate or Kapa O Pango before rugby Tests.
  • 25% believe it is appropriate to only perform Ka Mate.
  • 62% of New Zealanders have a positive view of Kapa O Pango
  • 46% of New Zealanders think the final gesture of Kapa O Pango should be left as it is. 37% of New Zealanders think the final gesture should be removed. 17% did not know.