Haka is a traditional, cultural gem, which contains everything needed for a compelling team building activity. In this post I discuss the history and meaning of the Haka, as well as its role in our team building events. Over the years we have constantly looked for creative ideas that complement our art- and music-based activities. It seems natural to us to look at what different cultures use to bring their people together.
The events we specialise in have been researched and developed sometimes over thousands of years by many different societies. We believe that, if they have survived that long, they must have something special or effective about them.
Haka is the tribal ritual dance performed by the Maori people of Aotearoa, more commonly known as New Zealand. It is used to bring people together to: prepare for conflict, share success, link between tribal ancestors, maintain respect and continue knowledge from the past to the future.
These days Haka is used at weddings, births, funerals and other gatherings of Maori people. There are thousands of Haka; each one tells a unique story and belongs to a specific tribe. In future blogs we will invite our head Haka Master to tell you one of these stories, but I thought today I would outline how we use Haka in our team building activities.
Normally we use Haka as the ultimate surprise at a meeting or conference. Our team of traditional Maori warriors storm into the room to perform the Haka on stage. The stunned audience gives a hearty applause…then are told to get on their feet and prepare to learn it all themselves!
The Haka Masters first explain the enthralling story behind the Haka. Each of the thousands of Haka have powerful messages about personal and tribal dignity. There are fantastic analogies of change, leadership and, of course, tribal motivation.
This is why learning the Haka as group is a perfect team building activity. Once the traditional words are recanted by everyone – and yes there is much hilarity learning to say “Nana nei i tiki mai whakawhiti te ra!” – all the physical moves are then learnt.
Each action corresponds to a part of the story, and in the learning there are hands, legs and wiggling fingers to perfect together as a group. This is obviously fun but highlights team intention and focus.
Occasionally, we split the group into different areas to perfect their Haka and have traditional face markings applied. This simple act takes the event to a very different level. Wearing the face paint creates a psychological mask and when each group returns to perform their Hakas to each other, the activity takes on a much deeper and more significant feeling.
I have seen this event well over fifty times and every time, bar none, it leaves people totally charged and energised, and also with a deeper understanding of Maori culture. Our Haka Masters see these events as a perfect vehicle to explain about Maori culture and therefore fulfil their personal tribal duty of further imparting this ancient knowledge.
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