Thursday, September 13, 2007

Obviously the last post needed more explanation

Rugby and soccer are different. Rugby is closer to American football, but without all the girly padding. There is more mud and glory in rugby. And the game doesn't get interrupted every three seconds by an over-zealous referee.

Plus, rugby players are cuter. Look!

Joe Rokocoko

Doug "get a haircut" Howlett

And my favourite, Tana Umaga. He's so cute that he gets two photos. But then he went and retired, so it's hardly worth watching the World Cup this year. (Except for Rokocoko(kokokokoko), the one at the top. He's worth watching. Not just for cuteness, but because that man can run. And smile. His smile is the best bit.)

The NZ team, the All Blacks, do a Maori war dance before each game, known as the Haka. Other Polynesian cultures have similar traditions, which is why you get Tonga and NZ facing off in the video below.

In my opinion, the haka is the main point of the game. After that and the national anthems, it's all downhill and you might as well give up and go to bed. Unless Rokokoko or Umaga are playing, of course. Which Umaga isn't, because he retired. Did I mention that? I don't think he realised how much his retirement would affect my ability to watch rugby games, otherwise he'd never have gone and done it.

The other thing worth knowing about the haka is that traditionally the All Blacks have always done the Ka Mate (Death) haka. This is very popular, but has slightly cryptic words (very hairy man doing something, up and down and up and down, and something something sun shiny shiny, whatever), unless you know the story behind it, and/or your Maori is better than mine. Two years ago the All Blacks commissioned a new haka, Kapa o Pango (All Blacks), which is pretty cool, and with words that are more clearly relevant (not so much of the hairy), but it upset people because of a throat-cutting gesture at the end. Now they kind of alternate between the two.

The Ka Mate haka can be seen here.
Here's a slightly less usual variant: the leader takes his clothes off :)
Here's a karaoke version (you know you want to).
Kapa o Pango here.


RageyOne said...

ahhh...thanks for the explanation. i'm familiar with the game of rugby and its similarity and difference to American football and soccer. That ritual war dance you posted was new and quite the thing. It is good to know something about other cultures. Thanks for sharing.

Oh and those photos of those players are quite cute!

New Kid on the Hallway said...

That is just way too cool. If American football players did that before games, I might even watch. (Except Americans would make it look stupid. Trust me, they would.) Does Australia do anything like that?

It's also interesting because I think if we did something like that here in the US, there would be criticism that it's appropriating and debasing Native American culture (there's a mascot for the U of Illinois who's supposed to be Chief Illini, who comes out at the beginning of a game and does a "war dance," which is pretty pathetic). But the Haka looks like an actual real cultural tradition (rather than making one up). And it looks like a lot of guys on the team actually are Maori, yes? (That's never the case with Native Americans and sport here, sadly.) Are they called All Blacks because they were originally intended to be all Maori, or is it the uniform or something else?

(Sorry to be so insane with the questions!)

RageyOne said...

Actually, New Kid, Chief Illiniwek has been retired. His last performance was back in the spring at a Univ of Illinois b-ball game.

Kate said...

I played rugby for two years (I was an 8), until the concussions got the best of me, so now I'm back to playing soccer. The Haka is awesome (like the time one of the teams didn't respect the Haka and then got creamed), but as I played in the US I never got to see the All Blacks do it anywhere but on television.

Oh, I was also a jumper (for the out of bounds plays). That, and being at the back of the scrum, means I had the most fun out of anybody on the field (IMHO). :)

Kelly said...

Nice to see some haka- and AB-love! I take it this means you are rooting for the ABs in the world cup? Not that sissy yellow and green team in the country in which you currently reside?

Go ABs!

StyleyGeek said...

New Kid, I think it helps that they have been doing it since 1884, so it became an established tradition long before anyone might have considered that appropriating Maori tradition could be offensive. Also, yes, the team has always been made up of a large number of Polynesian players (actually most of the ones who look Maori are generally from other Polynesian backgrounds, at least, going by their names (too many non-Maori consonants like n and l and v).)

Maori are (rightfully) often critical of other cultures appropriating their traditions: there was a furore a few years back when Lego brought out some figures with Maori names, and now there's a debate about Gaultier's use of the moko (tattoo) in his latest collection's ads. But use of cultural elements by fellow NZers usually doesn't get such a strong response, partly, I think, because the divide between "Maori" and "non-Maori" is not always clear, and in part is a matter of what you personally identify with. Many (the majority of?) NZers have Maori ancestry somewhere, so even blond blue-eyed people might identify as Maori.

Kapa haka (Maori traditional dance groups) at schools etc are generally open to anyone, Maori or not.

What is generally considered offensive is (a) using Maori culture in order to make money, without Maori people themselves seeing any of the revenue, and (b) using it without any understanding of the history and cultural significance of the thing you have appropriated. (Gaultier and Lego were guilty of both: the All Blacks, neither).

As for the team name, it's because of the All Black uniform, which they have had since around 1900. I don't think it is meant to reflect on the ethnicity of the players. Generally I don't think people consider Maori to be "black". In NZ if you refer to "a black guy", I think most people assume you mean someone of African background, or an American. I think most people distinguish e.g. black, white, Polynesian, Asian. Of course, I don't know what people did in 1900, so maybe there is something racial in the name originally too. The team was originally called the "New Zealand Native Team".

Finally, no Australia doesn't do anything like that. In Australia, I think it would be considered offensive if the team started doing an aboriginal dance or similar. Perhaps because fewer of their players are from that cultural background? Or just because you can't start a tradition like that up nowadays without people being critical of your motives.

StyleyGeek said...

Oh, and in answer to your OTHER question, yes, the haka is a real tradition, not just made up for the game.

StyleyGeek said...

Oops. Of course I mean "non-Maori consonants like s and l and v", not n!

grace said...

I found this explanation and translation, although I can't vouch for its accuracy:


It's my understanding that an important part of the story in "ka mate" involves a woman protecting a warrior by letting her menstrual blood fall on him, thereby rendering him unfit for combat. Someone raised that point when there was debate about the right of women to perform the "ka mate" haka.
On the face of it, an odd choice for the All Blacks! But that's tradition for you.

Image Goddess said...

Oh, I don't know if they're cuter. Our players are just covered up in all that padding!

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Thanks, styley! (and also to ragey for clarifying about Chief Illiniwek, I'm behind the times.) Excuse the stupidity of the questions, and not realizing the Polynesian/Maori distinctions. (I didn't mean to suggest that the All Blacks *were* appropriating Maori culture inappropriately, by the way, I was just curious how it was seen.) I also wondered about the "black" thing because I know the British often use black to refer to people of south Asian descent, and I didn't know how that worked in NZ.

The comment about blond blue-eyed Maori makes me think of a really great student I had at a former job - the red-haired blue-eyed Ojibwe Jason Steinbrenner. I think a lot of Americans still have a clear idea of what Native Americans should look like, they expect all Native Americans to be dark-skinned with dark hair and braids, and of course, they aren't.

Sorry to make you my expert on all things antipodean! (And that Umage really is cute.)

StyleyGeek said...

Your questions aren't stupid, New Kid! And I like pretending to be an expert. (Although obviously if I screwed up anything, I am happy to be corrected: I'm not really an expert on Maori culture at ALL).

Grace, the first link you give has the background story that I have heard before, and the translation seems pretty reasonable to me. The second one must have been smoking something to even refer to that as a "loose" translation.