The Haka way of life
Photography by Matteo Fabi
Story edited by Laura Pezzenati
Traditionally used to invoke gods and provoke fear in enemies before a fight, the Haka, ritual dance belonging to the oldest traditions of the Maori, has become an identity symbol of an ethnic group
From HA - breath and KA - inflaming, ("firing the breath"), haka is born as a war dance, aimed at impressing and communicating aggressiveness in an incisive way. The tongue out, the clenched teeth, the eyes wide open or the blows on the chest and on the forearms, are symbols of power and courage that refer to the warrior spirit of the Maori.
Although today is commonly associated with the New Zealand rugby national team, the All Blacks, its applications go far beyond the world of sport: it is a fundamental element of the national identity of this country and over time has become a way to express joy or pain during rites, parties and funerals, or to celebrate the coming of illustrious visitors.
Its artistic variant is called kapa haka, whose performances take place at all levels of society, from primary schools to regional and national competitions. The most heartfelt, however, are those within the same iwi, a group of families related by common ancestors.
One of the iwi historically hostile to the English colonizers is the Tūhoe tribe, inhabitants of the Te Urewera forest, in the heart of the northern island of New Zealand. The impenetrability of their region allowed them to remain isolated for a long time, coming into contact with the pakeha - the whites invaders - only during the wars of 1860-1870. From then on, theirs is a story of violent abuses and land expropriation, culminating in 2007 with a series of anti-terrorist-style armed raids in the village of Ruatoki, whose people were the victims of a ferocious media campaign.
It is in this complex social context, in which gangs, juvenile pregnancies and social abandonment are current, that kapa haka represents a redemption opportunity.
Matteo Fabi spent two weeks in Ruatoki, following the Taiarahia group in the preparation of the performance for the Tuhoe Festival - Te Hui Ahurei in Tūhoe - and from this privileged point of view he tells us about an event of art and sport created to celebrate the identity of the iwi.
Matteo Fabi - Visit Matteo website
Camera: Nikon D750
Lens: Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED