New Zealand’s All Blacks sealed an agreement with a Maori tribe on Thursday to ensure the team can continue to perform its traditional war dance, or haka, before matches.
The eye-rolling, foot-stomping ritual, entitled Ka Mate, has been performed by the All Blacks since 1905 but was composed by a leader of the Ngati Toa tribe, which was granted intellectual property rights to it in 2009.
The North Island-based tribe had threatened to trademark parts of the dance, raising the prospect of a legal battle ahead of the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand later this year.
But the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) said on Thursday it had reached an agreement with the Ngati Toa that would allow the All Blacks to maintain the tradition.
“The All Blacks have been performing Ka Mate for more than 100 years and it has a very special place in the team’s history and culture,” NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said.
Don’t demean the haka
Ngati Toa representative Riki Wineera said the NZRU had assured the tribe, or iwi, that the haka would be used respectfully.
“One of the iwi‘s long standing concern is that Ka Mate has been used in a belittling and culturally offensive way,” he said.
Wineera said Ngati Toa would not try to restrict other New Zealand sporting teams from performing the haka, provided they also treated it with due respect.
Details of the agreement remain confidential, although the NZRU has in the past expressed reluctance to pay for the right to perform the ritual, saying reducing it to a commercial commodity would demean it.
The haka is traditionally only performed by men and the Spice Girls attracted criticism in 1997 when they did an impromptu version during a concert in Bali.
A New Zealand bakery chain also came under fire for a 2007 commercial featuring animated gingerbread men with squeaky voices doing the haka. — AFP