A New Zealand Maori leader has backed controversial comments from South Africa coach Peter de Villiers that the haka is “overused,” saying the traditional war dance has been “hijacked by rugby people.”
Peter Love, trustee of an organization which administers Maori reserves, told Fairfax media that Maori culture was being “abused” and was especially unhappy with a wave of haka “flash mobs” surrounding the World Cup.
“I’m concerned our [Maori] culture is being abused by the overuse and inappropriateness of the haka when it is performed outside special occasions,” Love said yesterday.
“The haka in our culture is something which is regarded as special and should not be bastardized by sport. Peter de Villiers is dead right when he says it is losing its respect,” he said.
Love, whose uncle is a former New Zealand Maori Rugby Board chairman, added that haka flash mobs, including more than a dozen in recent weeks, with one in Barcelona and another at the Sydney Opera House, were misguided.
“The haka is a challenge, not something which is performed as an expression of delight,” he said. “Who told those people they could do that? The haka is an orchestrated representation of our culture when it is used in an appropriate place, but it is being abused.”
De Villiers courted controversy when he said the face-pulling, foot-stamping dance and chant performed before rugby games by New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa to intimidate opponents was becoming over-exposed.
“For me, about the World Cup especially, there is too many haka around,” de Villiers told the Dominion Post newspaper. “It is unique, to me, and is losing its intensity, but that is only me. People are becoming so used to it. It is not a novelty any more and they don’t respect it.”
De Villiers’ comments prompted an immediate response from the All Blacks, with center Ma’a Nonu saying: “It’s part of our history, our tradition. We’re proud of it. I don’t really care what he thinks.”