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Adorable 'Haka baby' dance offers a sweet window into Maori culture

This article originally appeared on 01.28.21


If you've never seen a Maori haka performed, you're missing out.

The Maori are the indigenous peoples of New Zealand, and their language and customs are an integral part of the island nation. One of the most recognizable Maori traditions outside of New Zealand is the haka, a ceremonial dance or challenge usually performed in a group. The haka represents the pride, strength, and unity of a tribe and is characterized by foot-stamping, body slapping, tongue protrusions, and rhythmic chanting.

Haka is performed at weddings as a sign of reverence and respect for the bride and groom and are also frequently seen before sports competitions, such as rugby matches.

Here's an example of a rugby haka:


Maori All Blacks Haka at sold-out BC Place in Vancouverwww.youtube.com

The intensity of the haka is the point. It is meant to be a show of strength and elicit a strong response—which makes seeing a tiny toddler learning to do it all the more adorable.

Danny Heke, who goes by @focuswithdan on TikTok, shared a video of a baby learning haka and omigosh it is seriously the most adorable thing. When you see most haka, the dancers aren't smiling—their faces are fierce—so this wee one starting off with an infectious grin is just too much. You can see that he's already getting the moves down, facial expressions and all, though.

As cute as this video is, it's part of a larger effort by Heke to use his TikTok channel to share and promote Maori culture. His videos cover everything from the Te Reo Maori language to traditional practices to issues of prejudice Maori people face.

Here he briefly goes over the different body parts that make up haka:

This video explains the purerehua, or bullroarer, which is a Maori instrument that is sometimes used to call rains during a drought.

@focuswithdan Reply to @sad.animevibes Some tribes used this to call the rains during drought 🌧 ⛈ ##maori##māori##focuswithdan##fyp
♬ Pūrerehua - Focuswithdan

This one shares a demonstration and explanation of the taiaha, a traditional Maori weapon.

@focuswithdan Reply to @shauncalvert Taiaha, one of the most formidable of the Māori Weaponry ##taiaha##maori##māori##focuswithdan##fyp##foryou
♬ original sound - Focuswithdan

For another taste of haka, check out this video from a school graduation:

@focuswithdan When your little cuzzy graduates and her school honours her with a haka ##maori##māori##haka##focuswithdan##fyp##graduation @its_keshamarley
♬ Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngāti Ruanui - Focuswithdan

Heke even has some fun with the trolls and racists in the comments who try to tell him his culture is dead (what?).

Unfortunately, it's not just ignorant commenters who spew racist bile. A radio interview clip that aired recently called Maori people "genetically predisposed to crime, alcohol, and underperformance," among other terrible things. (The host, a former mayor of Auckland, has been let go for going along with and contributing to the caller's racist narrative.)

@focuswithdan##newzealand radio in 2021 delivering racist commentaries 🤦🏽♂️ ##māori##maori##focuswithdan##racism DC: @call.me.lettie2.0
♬ original sound - Call.me.lettie

That clip highlights why what Heke is sharing is so important. The whole world is enriched when Indigenous people like the Maori have their voices heard and their culture celebrated. The more we learn from each other and our diverse ways of life, the more enjoyable life on Earth will be and the better we'll get at collaborating to confront the challenges we all share.

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Editor's Note: If you are having thoughts about taking your own life, or know of anyone who is in need of help, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 200+ crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 9-8-8. It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.


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