Ka mate!


This 1913 image, found at Shorpy, shows a Māori boy performing a haka on the beach in Northland, New Zealand. The haka is a traditional ancestral war cry, dance or challenge.

Glass plate negative by Arthur Northwood.

The Ka Mate haka has been popularized by the New Zealand All Blacks, who perform it as a challenge to their opponents at the beginning of every match. It can be quite intimidating to watch, which is the whole point:

The Ka Mate was composed by Te Rauparaha, war leader of the Ngāti Toa tribe of the North Island of New Zealand. He composed Ka Mate circa 1820 as a celebration of life over death after his lucky escape from pursuing Ngāti Maniapoto and Waikato enemies. He had hidden from them in a food-storage pit, and climbed back into the light to be met by a chief friendly to him – Te Whareangi (the “hairy man”).

What follows is a video showing how Inia Maxwell taught the Blacks how to perform the haka in the proper way:

Here, from Wikipedia, is the main body of the chant accompanied by a translation:

Ka mate, ka mate!ka ora! ka ora!Ka mate! ka mate! ka ora! ka ora!

Tēnei te tangata pūhuruhuru

Nāna nei i tiki mai whakawhiti te rā

Ā, upane! ka upane!

Ā, upane, ka upane, whiti te ra!

’Tis death! ‘tis death! (or: I may die)’Tis life! ‘tis life! (or: I may live)’Tis death! ‘tis death! ’Tis life! ‘tis life!

This is the hairy man

Who brought the sun and caused it to shine

A step upward, another step upward!

A step upward, another… the Sun shines!

The Ka Mate has been popularized sufficiently that it appears in other places as well:

Bucky - Ka Mate

“Get Fuzzy” by Darby Conley

On Viggo Mortensen’s last day on the set filming Lord of the Rings, the New Zealand cast and crew offered him the haka as a signal honor for his contribution; you can see how moved he was by this recognition. The salient point begins at 1:44, but the entire clip is worth watching.

Lastly, here is a powerful video showing the soldiers of 2/1 RNZIR Battalion (New Zealand Defence Force) paying tribute to their fallen comrades with a massive haka. You can almost cut the honor and respect with a knife.

Some additional background on the Ka Mate can be found at Marimari.com.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

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