All Blacks' 'Ka Mate' haka protected in free trade deal with UK

·2-min read
New Zealand players perform haka before the first rugby Test of Bledisloe Cup between the New Zealand and Australia at Eden Park in Auckland on August 7, 2021. - All Blacks' 'Ka Mate' haka protected in trade deal with UK - GETTY IMAGES
New Zealand players perform haka before the first rugby Test of Bledisloe Cup between the New Zealand and Australia at Eden Park in Auckland on August 7, 2021. - All Blacks' 'Ka Mate' haka protected in trade deal with UK - GETTY IMAGES

The All Blacks’ famous haka, Ka Mate, has been granted surprise protections in the UK's new free trade deal with New Zealand.

Attached to the agreement is "a commitment by the UK to cooperate with New Zealand to identify appropriate ways to advance recognition and protection of the haka Ka Mate".

Ka Mate was composed in 1820 but has become best known for its use as a battle cry pre-match by All Blacks players over the past 100 years. Since 2005, the team has occasionally performed another haka, "Kapa o Pango". The Ngāti Toa tribe’s guardianship of Ka Mate has been written into New Zealand law since 2014 and, between 1998 and 2006, they attempted to trademark Ka Mate to prevent its use by commercial organisations without their permission.

A clause to protect the traditional chant and dance was agreed to coincide with a deal that will expand an existing £2.3 billion of trade between the UK and New Zealand, and should make imports of some Sauvignon Blanc and honey cheaper.

As a result, the haka appears set to be protected from being used in commercial settings by those other than its traditional indigenous guardians. An attachment to the trade deal stipulates that Britain must "acknowledge Ngāti Toa Rangatira’s [the leaders of Ngāti Toa] guardianship of the haka”.

Māori party co-leader Rawiri Waititi told the New Zealand Herald that the new protections should be welcomed. “We must be looking at cultural appropriation – not misappropriation, treating it with a lot more respect and I’m glad that a lot more people are,” he said.

“You’ve got to understand the concept of haka, and what it’s about. It’s not a commodity to be used in that sort of space, it’s a taonga [treasure] that’s been gifted to the All Blacks by Ngati Toa and Aotearoa and we’re really proud of it.”

The reference to the traditional Maori war dance may have arisen due to allegations of cultural appropriation in the UK. A group of UK nurses apologised after performing an altered haka in facepaint, which was branded "verging on being racist" by cultural adviser Karaitiana Taiuru.

Boris Johnson and Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand prime minister, have agreed the wider trade deal which will now need to be ratified by Parliament. Tariffs as high as 10 per cent on British goods such as clothing, footwear, buses, ships and bulldozers will be removed, boosting sale opportunities in New Zealand. In turn, New Zealand products such as Sauvignon Blanc, Manuka honey and kiwifruit should become cheaper to import into the UK.

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