What is a haaka

Maori rituals


Basically, Haka means "dance" in the Maori language. The term also stands for a special dance of the New Zealand natives, with which the warriors once attuned to the battle and intimidated the enemy - with sweeping movements, terrifying facial expressions and chanting. The haka has now become an integral part of the welcoming and entertainment ceremony for guests.

When asked what constitutes the art of dance, Haka master Henare Teowai from the Maori tribe Ngati Porou answered: "Kia korero te katoa o te tinana" - in English: "The whole body should speak".

The hands, arms, legs, feet, voice, eyes and tongue express the feelings of the dancers. Some examples of parts of the haka: pukana (open eyes), whetero (stick out tongue) and potete (close eyes).

The dancers should not make synchronous movements, but rather each individual should react spontaneously to the spoken word. "More than any other aspect of Maori culture, the haka is an expression of passion, strength and identity. At its best, it is a message of the soul, expressed through words and gestures." The English military doctor Arthur S. Thomson described the dance in his book "The Story of New Zealand" in 1859.


The Hongi is the traditional Maori greeting, which is still widespread in their everyday life today. The two greeting people press their forehead and nose gently together and say "Hm, hm" or breathe out audibly.

In addition, when performing a Hongi, you usually reach out with your right hand and grasp the forearm of the other person with your left. This is how the breath of life of the two people connects.

For the Maori, the person who is greeted after this ritual is no longer manuhiri (visitor), but tangata whenua (person of the country). In this way, the guest assumes all rights and obligations of the welcoming Maori for the duration of his stay.

In the past, this also meant, for example, that in the event of war you would fight alongside your host.


The traditional permanent decoration of the Maori body and face is called moko. In contrast to the usual tattoo, moko was originally not made with needles, but with scratching and scraping tools from bones. Accordingly, the skin was very scarred afterwards. The color was obtained from a certain type of caterpillar fungus or from charred wood.

For a long time, all high-ranking Maori wore mokos, especially on their faces. Because the head was considered the most sacred part of the body and should therefore be specially decorated. A kind of code of the decorations allowed more precise statements about origin and rank. Those who did not wear a moko had a very low social status.

Since the early 1990s, moko has been increasingly worn again as a sign of Maori identity - by both men and women. However, the decorations are no longer scraped, but tattooed with needles.