Author Topic: From the Blog: Haka Lacken?  (Read 8853 times)

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JocelynCS

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From the Blog: Haka Lacken?
« on: February 17, 2010, 09:06:44 PM »
My comments are in blue.

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Several months ago, after much effort, I succeeded in finishing my Master’s degree. As per University protocol, my graduation ceremony was held as a joint ceremony for several of the schools within my faculty  - thus while there were less than fifteen other Master’s graduates, there were over two hundred Undergraduates. This particular University does not distinguish school or faculty within the academic dress code, rather the level of degree determines the colouring and style. For example, all Bachelor’s students wore black and white while Doctoral students wore black and red in a different style. While there was quite a bit of freedom regarding what was worn beneath the robes the only difference between the robes of like graduands were stoles denoting previous achievements (such as graduate certificates for example) and, if desired, traditional heritage. Should a graduate wish to honour their indigenous or islander heritage an appropriate stole would be worn, which while distinctive would not overly disrupt the uniformity of the academic dress. Not many graduates at my ceremony had opted to wear such stoles. I only mention this as it explains my thought process throughout the following events.

The ceremony itself was like many others of its type – graduands were lined up and seated according to the order the degrees were to be presented. After the name was announced, the graduate would walk to the middle of the stage to receive the award before exiting via the opposite side of the stage and returning to their seat. Large monitors were set up to display whichever graduate was receiving their award at the time, in order to give them their moment of recognition.

As the order of ceremony put the post-graduate degrees at the beginning of the event, after receiving my degree and reseating myself I had the opportunity to watch those following me. I was keeping amused by observing what each graduate was wearing, as many had put a great deal of effort into their appearance. Not all of it was practical – I saw more than one girl in stilettos nearly topple during the handshake due to strapless tops not having any points to which robes could attach to stop them from slipping down.  I was appreciating a very nice headscarf (carefully chosen to match the robes) when I noticed one of the graduates wearing a heritage stole. I couldn’t quite place the pattern as it wasn’t one of the typical indigenous patterns so I kept an  eye on the person as they moved forward, hoping their name might give a clue.

Moments after their name was read out and the person began to move across stage there came a loud shout from the audience. Having got the attention of the graduate the audience members then started to perform a Haka at full volume! For those not familiar with the term, the Haka is a Maori dance which involves a great deal of shouting, tongue baring and threatening movements. While originally a war dance it is now often performed prior to sporting events and the like. Most of the audience would have had enough familiarity with the practice to recognize it.

The Haka stopped after a line or two, and while I thought it rude I also accepted that it was most likely a heartfelt expression of pride. Fair enough. It gave the ceremony a bit of spice. However after a moment’s pause it began again. The Haka got increasingly louder, the poor graduate’s face became more and more strained, and the ceremony was at a standstill. It would hardly be fair to attempt to announce the next graduate over the noise from the dancers! Then the camera operator proceeded to turn the stage cameras towards the dancers. Certainly they now had the full hall’s attention! Eventually after about five minutes the dance ended, there was a moment of silence to ensure that it really had finished,  then polite applause for the graduate and the ceremony moved on.

This was a recognition ceremony for ALL the graduates. We accepted that as a part of this form of ceremony that we would be sharing our moment of success with our fellow graduates and their families. We each knew that we would have our moment in the spotlight. While I appreciate that they wished to show their support for their graduate, and emphasize their pride in your heritage, could it not have waited for a better time? How does the graduate announced afterwards feel, having their long awaited moment of triumph delayed? How do the academic staff presenting feel to have the carefully orchestrated ceremony disrupted in such a manner? How did their graduate feel  having the spotlight for an extended period of time, while KNOWING that it was disrespectful to everyone else graduating that day? Yes he was smiling, but I’ve seen less fixed expressions on statues. This was the culmination of over three year’s work for most of the graduates – their moment to shine! Instead the attention was fully centered upon this group of guests while a hundred graduates waited!

To the mystery Haka dancers: Yes, you think your graduate is special. Yes you are proud of him. But by doing what you have you implied that he was the ONLY special one. That the work of every other student in that hall was less worthy than his. While I did not have as much emotionally invested in this ceremony as others I can imagine how hurt some must feel. This was a highly disrespectful action – Not only to myself and all the other graduates, but to your graduate as well.

Were the actions of the camera operator appropriate? While giving attention to poor behaviour is not to be encouraged, would keeping the camera focussed upon the stage have created an even more awkward situation?   0208-10

 When my sister was in middle school, performing in a chorus recital, a parent yelled "heyyy!" when her daughter got a brief solo part.  At first, it was cute.  But then the "HEYYY!" started getting shouted after every single line of the song, whether by the daughter or others.  The poor kid was mortified, other parents and audience members annoyed, and the offending parent oblivious.  I think a brief bout of cheers or chants is perfectly fine to show pride at an event, but yes, people should not hijack a celebration.

Winterlight

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Re: From the Blog: Haka Lacken?
« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2010, 12:57:38 PM »
I think that nobody should be allowed to monopolize a group occasion. The dancers were rude- if they want to show their pride, there are better ways to do it.
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Caroline Lake Ingalls

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Re: From the Blog: Haka Lacken?
« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2010, 03:42:56 PM »
I'm a little confused as to why the organizers didn't try to put an end to this dance earlier. ???
A five minute anything is way too long for a graduation ceremony.

Winterlight

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Re: From the Blog: Haka Lacken?
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2010, 10:21:13 AM »
I'm guessing they weren't sure how to shut it down without causing a potential scene.
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Ziata

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Re: From the Blog: Haka Lacken?
« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2010, 06:12:42 AM »
I really want to know what university this was - NZ only has eight, after all, and I think it may be my university.

That aside, it's awkward and embarrasing and a pity there is no easy way to stop that sort of behaviour mid-ceremony.

amandaelizabeth

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Re: From the Blog: Haka Lacken?
« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2010, 02:49:06 AM »
and this is how cross cultural misunderstandings are born.

I assume that this did not happen in a New Zealand/Aoteraoa University.  If it did it would be a reflection on the poster, as under the Treaty of Waitangi the University has to honour the provisions of the Treaty, and therefore a Haka would have been anticipated.  I would hope that all the graduates would have understood that.

However if it happened outside the country then this is all very unfortunate, and misconstrued. I wish they had the opportunity to explain what they were doing and why, so that the rest of the gathering has understood.

 The Haka is not a dance, it is a Hake and there is no direct translation.  However it is a chant with movement to praise and honour the recent graduate.  This is something that probably would not happen for many people in their lifetime.  So I suggest that this was a special graduate who either achieved their degree overcoming some serious setbacks or because they did very well.  This is shown by the fact the graduate wore a Korowai, (in english a cloak but again that is not quite a direct translation) which is all probability would have been a treasure passed down from previous generations.  It would have taken several hundred hours to make, and most people rarely get to wear one (the Queen when she visits us for example) unless they do something out of the ordinary.  Most times one sees a Korowai draped on a coffin in recognition of the deceased's contributions to society).  The fact that many of the graduate's family made the trip - which would have been very costly - demonstrates the worthiness of the young man.  Oh and how do I know it was a young man?  Because if it was a woman they would have sung a waiata.
Culturally they were compelled to act in this manner and for them it would have deeply hurtful and insulting not to do so.

As to the camera's.  It is often the case when people act in a customary manner in a different society, bystanders are curious/intrigued/excited etc and ask them to repeat it.  Probably that is what happened here, and they did not wish to cause offence and so repeated it .

Tia2

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Re: From the Blog: Haka Lacken?
« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2010, 10:07:00 AM »
If it would have been culturally improper for them not to act in this way, surely they could have cleared it with the university authorities first?

As it was, they were making it clear that their graduate was far more important than all the other graduates.  That may have been true, but some sort of announcement might have soothed hurt feelings from the families of all the graduates who were being made to feel less on their special day.

Hanna

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Re: From the Blog: Haka Lacken?
« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2010, 10:11:31 AM »
Thanks to this thread, I am now obsessed with youtube videos of the New Zealand Rugby Team, the All Blacks, doing the Haka. 

I would have welcomed a Haka at my graduation.

Twik

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Re: From the Blog: Haka Lacken?
« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2010, 12:42:28 PM »
I don't understand - they were culturally compelled to interrupt a ceremony with their own? They couldn't perform it before, or after, but HAD to do it right in the middle of the graduation? That's a rather rigid cultural imperative.
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wendelenn

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Re: From the Blog: Haka Lacken?
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2010, 05:48:04 PM »
I don't understand - they were culturally compelled to interrupt a ceremony with their own? They couldn't perform it before, or after, but HAD to do it right in the middle of the graduation? That's a rather rigid cultural imperative.

Not to mention UNBELIEVABLY rude to the other graduates.
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Vegemite Girl

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Re: From the Blog: Haka Lacken?
« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2010, 06:08:47 PM »
I don't understand - they were culturally compelled to interrupt a ceremony with their own? They couldn't perform it before, or after, but HAD to do it right in the middle of the graduation? That's a rather rigid cultural imperative.

Not to mention UNBELIEVABLY rude to the other graduates.

Again, only from a Non-Kiwi perspective.

I'm a Pakeha Kiwi (ie. white, non-Maori) and I would expect at least one haka per ceremony... as amandaelizabeth has said, it's pretty normal. I agree with the original poster the length of this particular one made it an intrusion, but it's occurance wasn't. Also, based on the comments made by the person who sent this to the blog they are either badly uninformed about Maori culture (calling the haka a war dance and threatening, etc) or a racist Kiwi. I put this down to cultural mis-understanding and too much enthusiasm on the part of the whanau.

Stranger

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Re: From the Blog: Haka Lacken?
« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2010, 07:08:16 PM »
I'm glad to be forewarned  :) as I plan on doing a Masters degree at AUT.

In South Africa one expects ullulation and sometimes a bit of toi-toing from the crowd to illustrate pride, joy and community spirit. The ullulations can last a while, making it hard to hear the name of the next student to be called - I think that is rude. Not the fact that ululating (is that even a word?) is occurring, but that it could be disruptive to others if it is not kept to a few seconds.

amandaelizabeth

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Re: From the Blog: Haka Lacken?
« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2010, 10:01:28 PM »
I hope Stranger that you do come to AUT as it is a good school.  I also hope you are able to catch a glimpse of Maori culture as it is very interesting and the only place on earth, you are able to see it in every day reality.  The Haka the All Blacks do, is the one most people know, but there are others which are specific to people or events.

The problem I see here is that it is Western view of the world that events have to be managed in a certain way and in a specified time frame.  If people do not confirm to this view point it is rude.  The Maori view would be that it is rude to rush through things, without paying respects to individuals who need to be acknowledged in a a culturally appropriate way. What is a few moments compared to three or four years hard work at University and the time put into schooling before that.   

Here in New Zealand, we try to accomodate both view points, which can be hard and difficult sometimes, but challenging and exciting too.

By the way I to am a Pakeha Kiwi 

Vegemite Girl

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Re: From the Blog: Haka Lacken?
« Reply #13 on: February 21, 2010, 10:51:16 PM »

The problem I see here is that it is Western view of the world that events have to be managed in a certain way and in a specified time frame.  If people do not confirm to this view point it is rude.  The Maori view would be that it is rude to rush through things, without paying respects to individuals who need to be acknowledged in a a culturally appropriate way. What is a few moments compared to three or four years hard work at University and the time put into schooling before that.   
 

Yep.

In fact, a Maori friend of mine told me after our graduation ceremony that she felt it was rude pakeha people *didn't* do some kind of haka-equivalent for their grads.

And hey, AUT is fine, but Massey University on the other hand... I'm just sayin'

 ;D

amandaelizabeth

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Re: From the Blog: Haka Lacken?
« Reply #14 on: February 21, 2010, 11:14:59 PM »
I would raise you Waikato, well anything Hamilton

Amandaelizabeth