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New Zealand’s Maori haka dance protected under trade deal with UK

Boris Johnson and Jacinda Ardern agree deal via video call

Matt Mathers
Thursday 21 October 2021 15:03 BST
New Zealand rugby team performs haka

Britain's new trade deal with New Zealand includes a commitment to protect the Maori cultural tradition of the ceremonial haka dance.

During a Zoom call on Wednesday evening, UK prime minister Boris Johnson and his counterpart Jacinda Ardern agreed to terms on a deal aimed at boosting trade and relations between their two countries.

Both leaders committed to promoting Maori participation in trade, addressing Maori concerns and indentifying "appropriate ways to advance recognition and protection of the haka Ka Mate".

Haka means "dance" in the language of New Zealand's Maori people and involves a group performing synchronised movements, with lots of stomping, shouting, and eye-rolling.

The haka is also used as a war dance and has become associated with the New Zealand rugby team, which performs it before matches, signalling a challenge to their opponents.

Some indigenous communities have long been critical of the dance being mocked or exploited for profit.

Over the years, haka parodies have been used in Britain to sell everything from menswear to alcopops, without permission and without a cent being paid to the ritual's traditional owners.

Last year a group of UK nurses apologised after performing an altered haka in facepaint.

Indigenous leaders say if there is no Maori involvement in the dance and it is performed outside New Zealand, then this is cultural appropriation.

The trade deal will encourage more cultural sensitivity, with London agreeing to formally recognise Ngati Toa's guardianship of the Ka Mate haka.

“Ka Mate is one of the most appropriated, commercially ripped off icons of New Zealand and Te Ao Māori [so] it’s important and logical that it’s in there,” Karaitiana Taiuru, a New Zealand cultural adviser, said of the deal.

“And at events in London we see drunk Kiwis down the street doing the haka, just disrespecting Ngāti Toa, Te Rauparaha, the whole haka … I hope that this was a good step forward for recognition of Indigenous rights.”

The UK said the agreement will axe tariffs on British exports such as clothing, footwear, ships and bulldozers while tariffs on goods going the other way, such as wine, kiwifruit and meat, will also be scrapped.

It estimated that trade between the two countries last year was worth £2.3 billion.

Mr Johnson said the agreement was a "big moment" for UK-NZ relations before likening the negotiations to a rugby match.

"I'm absolutely thrilled that we seem to have driven for the line, we've scrummed down, we've packed tight and together we've got the ball over the line," he said.

Ms Arden said it was "one of our best deals ever".

Continuing the rugby metaphor, Ms Arden said "unlike a rugby match, I think we can literally both come off the field feeling like winners".

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