Spotlight on New Zealand: Where to see a Haka

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If asked, most New Zealanders would say that they saw their first haka on the rugby field by the nation’s beloved All Blacks rugby team.

Based on a type of ancient Maori war dance, this haka combines rhythmic body slapping, violent foot-stomping and scary facial contortions with loud and aggressive chanting. Performed at the beginning of the game, it highlights the team and national pride, strength, and unity.

But there are many forms of haka and not all are as aggressively full on as the one displayed on the rugby field.

Kapa Haka – traditional Maori performing arts – ranges from the infamous haka aimed at firing up the All Blacks and their supporters to the much more graceful and harmonious actions of Maori dance troupes.

Considered an intrinsic part of the New Zealand cultural experience, it is definitely worthwhile to catch a haka, be it on the rugby field or in a concert hall.

From north to south, here are a few places where you can witness the haka.

North Island

Te Hana Te Ao Marama, Featuring a 17th century Maori Village and model Pa site, this purpose built cultural center is located just one hour north of Auckland and offers an authentic Maori cultural experience.

Auckland Museum Within the walls of this iconic European designed heritage building is the worlds most extensive Maori and Pacific Island Collection. It is also the only Auckland venue to provide daily Maori haka performances.

But the best place in the North Island to see the Haka is Rotorua where a number of Maori cultural centers – Te Puia, Tamaki Maori Village, Whakarewarewa Thermal Village, Mitai Maori Village – all offer the opportunity to watch, and even participate in performing the haka.

South Island

Ko Tane. Located within the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve on the outskirts of Christchurch, Ko Tane is the South Island’s only Maori cultural performance center. At the replica Maori Village hidden amongst native trees and ferns, visitors can experience the various forms of the haka.

(image by Natural-Heart via flickr)

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