The physicality of Māori message transmission - Ko te tinana, he waka tuku kōrero
This article explores the transmission of meaning via the body in the Māori performing arts through the medium of haka (Māori posture dances). Both the physical and spiritual aspects of Māori performance will be explored to determine the ideals of effective performance within the Māori world. Haka is an art form with various classes and subclasses; and this article describes these classes and subclasses in relation to their function and physical form. This analysis will highlight the ability and potency of haka to transmit social and political messages. Moreover, I will examine the specific bodily actions and movements associated with Māori performance with regard to the way in which it is used to emphasise, physically articulate and consequently enhance the verbal performance and overall transmission of meaning. Performing arts fulfilled a wide variety of social and political functions in traditional Māori society. These functions included welcoming guests (haka pōwhiri – haka of welcome), fare-welling and mourning the deceased (waiata tangi laments), attracting a mate (waiata whaiāipo – “sweetheart songs”), giving advice or instructions (waiata tohutohu – message bearing songs), restoring self-respect (pātere – fast chants), intimidating an adversary (peruperu – war dance) and the transmission and making public of social and political messages (haka taparahi, ngeri – ceremonial haka). Regardless of function, the key aspect in Māori performing arts was the words and the message they contained. However, it was the body that was the instrument and vessel of delivery. The haka, as one form of performing art, is a posture dance accompanied by chanted or shouted song. Haka are often performed by groups of men, and increasingly today by groups of men and women. One of the main characteristics of haka are that actions involving all parts of the body are used to emphasise the words.
Keywords: Maori performing arts; haka; classifications of haka; Maori language
Research Type: Journal Article