Skip to content

On not-so-flash mob haka… celebration or spectacle?

  • Written on Monday 5 September, 2011 – edited and published today.

At the risk of raining on the parade (there’s that bearers of discomfort thing again), can’t say I’m too inspired by the flash-mob haka that’s traveling like lightening around the web. The minute I saw it I knew it was part of the Rugby World Cup buildup, which left me feeling – ambivalent? Māori culture has long been celebrated as ‘spectacle’ – great when it comes to sporting fracas or official ‘lets look multicultural’ state events, but disparaged when engaged in as a means of protest. I wonder if the videos would be quite so popular were these ‘surprise’ haka occurring around the motu in protest at … I dunno … deep-sea oil drilling… the degradation of our papa… the foreshore and seabed raupatu perhaps?  Not as exciting as the game with the pigs bladder, but considerably more vital to our well-being. Then I imagine the frame would be completely different – intimidating, aggressive, unnecessary.  I can just hear the Michael Law’s caller caterwauling “haven’t these people got JOBS to go to”?

There is no denying that the initiation of flash mob haka as buildup to the RWC is a stroke of PR genius.  Only, as has been pointed out to me, the PR companies ain’t that clever.  Leave it to brown folks.  Like the Mexican wave, once started the pride such cultural performance inspires in many Māori, and a number of Pākehā, have led to more and more mob-haka – really, money can’t buy that kind of advertising.  But given that it celebrates world cup rugby, there can be small argument that such spectacle risks turning the haka into little more than a commodity.  Where is the line between the haka used to promote the billion-dollar industry that is world cup rugby, and its appropriation by Coke or Fiat?? (true story – check out the links below, its enough to make a wahine weep).



Its never fun being potentially the wet-blanket on uplifting celebration of ‘us’ – I’m not claiming these flash-mob haka are necessarily a bad thing, nor would I deny that there is much pleasure to be had in the world’s fascination with the spine-tingling power of our cultural performance, even as it traverses the boundary of exoticising the ‘other’.  I feel that swell of pride too. But it never hurts to step back for a moment and consider critically (since its what us Māori do best ;)) the unintended and yet potentially problematic consequences.  That’s my 2c anyway, which used to buy a whānau a bottle of milk not that long ago.  Now there’s something to haka about.

Edited to add (1 October 2011): It seems haka-in-protest begins (see here) … will be interesting to see how these are re-presented in the media.

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tarsh #

    It’s quite disconcerting to see such inappropriate useage of ‘the haka’. I doubt Te Rauparaha would have ever imagined that the story of his narrow escape from his persuers could be used to sell cars and fizzy drink. Like you say, I doubt peeps would be quite so willing to buy what some of ‘you’ radicals (lol) are selling if ya busted out a haka.

    September 24, 2011
  2. Cripes, that Fiat one is terrible.

    September 26, 2011
  3. Kid #

    Great write-up. The last few Olympic opening ceremonies have used indigenous peoples as part of the spectacle, and it has created a few arguments about how do indigenous peoples transcend ethnicity, or appear as anything other than priordial.

    I just thought I would add that the best PR moves for the world cup have not come from the official PR channels. They couldn’t grasp how the PI community reacted to the their teams, but great PR. And the flash-mob idea came from within the ropu haka itself. They group did form for the opening cup ceremony. 50 or so young men and women from across the country, invited to volunteer their time. But it was nothing that a marketing exec could have thought up.

    The other point I wanted to make is that at the last few opening celebrations of Olympics, the indigenous peoples have been big parts of the spectacle, but

    September 29, 2011
    • Bearer of discomfort #

      Thanks for the comment 🙂 Silly me, shoulda known an idea so good would have to come from the brown peeps – thanks for correcting the error, I’ll have to edit. Not sure where your other point went? But I’m looking forward to it…

      September 29, 2011
  4. Maori but not Flash or Mob #

    Think our Maori men need to step up and well, maybe think about how their haka actions actually equate to more than just showing off how tough, popular, unique and proud they are. The ‘bravehearts’ of Maori haka might want to think about how Ngāti Toa are marginalised from ownership rights over their intellectual property in a legal sense and from any position to determine where, when and how their haka is used in public. Dont be like sheep and follow a practice (flash-mob) that doesnt protect cultural relationships and cultural values. Haka on the inside if thats how you feel. It isnt just about performing for an audience.

    October 3, 2011
  5. Thanks for the share , your post is very helpful 🙂 I really like your blog, I will come back for future articles for sure, Take care, Assaf.

    August 3, 2012
  6. This is a topic that is near to my heart… Best wishes!
    Where are your contact details though?

    March 27, 2013
  7. I drop a comment when I appreciate a post on a website or I have something to contribute to the discussion.
    Usually it’s caused by the fire communicated in the post I browsed. And on this post On not-so-flash mob haka celebration or spectacle? | Turangawaewae. I was moved enough to leave a comment 🙂 I actually do have a couple of questions for you if it’s allright.
    Could it be only me or do some of these remarks
    come across like they are left by brain dead individuals?
    😛 And, if you are writing at other sites, I would like to keep up with everything fresh you have to post.
    Could you list the complete urls of all your public sites like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

    March 31, 2013
  8. Superb website you have here but I was curious if you knew
    of any discussion boards that cover the same topics talked about here?
    I’d really like to be a part of online community where I can get comments from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Many thanks!

    July 19, 2013
  9. Hello, thanks for this video collection hehehe…. and congratulations for your blog.


    December 26, 2014

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Troubling racism | Tūrangawaewae

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: