‘Throat-slitting haka’ given all clear by World Rugby despite racial protests

‘Throat-slitting haka’ given all clear by World Rugby despite racial protests

2 August, 2015. 13:14

ERROL PARKER | Editor-at-large | Contact

THE CONTROVERSIAL THROAT-SLITTING haka has been given the all clear by World Rugby ahead of the Rugby World Cup, which is due to kick off in London in just over four weeks time.

The move comes after a number of national rugby boards from around the world asking for the sport’s governing body to ban the “highly intimidating war dance” because it makes other teams and fans feel uncomfortable.

The haka is a type of ancient Māori war dance traditionally used on the battlefield, or in this case, the sporting field. This haka is a fierce display of a tribe’s pride, strength and unity. The words of a haka often poetically describe ancestors and events in the tribe’s history.

The All Black's display of culture is OK, says rugby union bosses. PHOTO: Supplied.
The All Black’s display of culture is OK, says rugby union bosses. PHOTO: Supplied.

It’s also performed by members of the All Blacks who have no Māori heritage.

Coming just days after the Adam-Goodes-Spear-gate saga, World Rugby released a statement today saying that displays of culture and pride “are a part of our wonderful game”.

Earlier in the year, the 35-year-old South Australian was subject to heated debate over whether he was right to celebrate kicking a goal by “displaying an act of culture” by mimicking a spear toss into a section of the opposing team’s supporters.

Speaking today from World Rugby headquarters in Dublin, chairman Bernard Lapasset said that the New Zealand haka, in all its varieties and versions, has been and will always be a part of rugby union.

“Despite rugby union being exclusively played by upper-middle-class white men and women, we’ve investigated claims that this particular decapitation variant of the haka is perfectly fine for our game,” he said.

“While the haka does have significant cultural importance to the New Zealand All Blacks, we’d never argue over it’s racial relevance to the sport. Rather than see it as a talking point, we just accept it as a part of humanity,”

“It doesn’t matter what your background is, where you’re from or what colour your skin is – the haka is an extremely powerful display of culture and inherently spine-tingling. We wouldn’t have it any other way in rugby.”

The haka is deeply rooted in the history of All Blacks. It's a dance enjoyed by all rugby fans. PHOTO: Supplied.
The haka is deeply rooted in the history of All Blacks. It’s a dance enjoyed by all rugby fans. PHOTO: Supplied.

When the throat-slitting haka was first performed in 2005 before a Tri Nations game in Dunedin, it was met with a few raised eyebrows from the Australian media. Especially when the final “thumb across the throat” gesture was repeated the following year in a match against Australia.  They questioned whether it was appropriate to threaten the Wallabies with “beheading” before the game.

However, the NZRU completed a review in to the raised Australian eyebrows, and concluded that the gesture had a radically different meaning within Māori culture and haka traditions, indicating the drawing of “Hauora“, the breath of life into the heart and lungs – which has nothing to do with actually cutting somebodies head off.

Eventually, the controversy subsided and everybody went on with their lives.

Fortunately for the news media, only a few days after the throat-slitting haka was plastered over the pages of newspapers around the world, Israel entered a defacto state of war against Lebanon and 209 people were killed in a series of terrorist attacks in Mumbai – so they had something else to talk about.

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