12 Feb 2009

Maoris win battle to control All Blacks' haka ritual

The eye-rolling, tongue-flicking haka war dance made famous by the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team was officially handed back to a Maori tribe yesterday to stop it being ripped off by Hollywood directors and international advertising campaigns.

The New Zealand government assigned intellectual property rights in the traditional Maori haka, the Ka Mate, to Ngati Toa, a North Island tribal group.

The new agreement is largely symbolic, but it is considered immensely significant by Maori leaders. "Ngati Toa's primary objective is to prevent the misappropriation and culturally inappropriate use of the Ka Mate haka," the official settlement letter read.

The tribe has been battling for a decade to stop commercial exploitation of the haka, saying its use in film and television has been culturally insensitive and has undermined its traditional significance.

Among uses it objected to was a 2006 television advertisement by the car maker Fiat in which Italian women performed a slapdash rendition of the haka, which is traditionally performed only by men.

The Guardian