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Road to Recital 2020: Ko Wai Ra

Updated: Mar 2, 2020

[Note to Readers: The Road to Recital 2020 is an ongoing multimedia project by our 9th grade Digital Studies class documenting the behind the scenes preparations for this year's Cultural Recital. In this class, our scholars are learning how to utilize digital tools to organize, collaborate, communicate, manage deadlines, create digital content and develop 21st century digital skills. The work depicted in this space is the culmination of the skills and knowledge they are developing in the Digital Studies class, divided into teams of blog writers, photographers, videographers and a project manager.]

At Mana Academy, our secondary students are learning a Māori Haka called Ko Wai Ra. Our first grade teacher at Mana Academy, Mitchell Rudolph, who is Māori, changed the words to make it more relevant to our school's mission and vision. These are the words we chant in Ko Wai Ra:

Who? We are the scholars of Mana Academy. Who stand here today. I disagree. I dispute the views of the Governor. The Immigration Laws. To racism and ignorance. To the person who thinks I will not make it to College. Stand, come, bring it on! The challenge is to do better. I will succeed!

In Māori culture, a Haka is a waitia. Waitia is a link with the spiritual realm and Māori deity. In waitia you express yourself through song and dance. You express yourself from the core, using your whole body to tell a story and express to others how you feel. The messages will carry affecting each individual differently. If it has a strong important message then it will become important to those who understand.

A common misconception is that a Haka is a war chant, but a Haka can also be a formal speech sung to express grief at a funeral or a greeting. The only time a haka is considered a war chant is when it is done with weapons. Haka were first used to encourage children to take a cause and stand with it. Also, to mourn the lives of those who have passed.

In a Haka, the boys' motions are strong, broad, and open. This shows their strength and power. It shows their stance. They have to be very loud and have strong facial features. Girls are there to support the boys with their voice, often being in the back but sometimes they will join the boys. Throughout the Haka, girls tremble their hands but all performers will do other gestures to enhance and communicate the intentions of the Haka. You will often see them pukana (an exaggerated bulging of the eyes), whetero (stick out and flicker of the tongue), waewae takahia (stomp the feet) and slap their body with their hands.

Haka is important to the Māori because it is one of many ways that a tribe records their history and stories. The words of the Haka can refer to a place, person, or event. When you know your history you have an idea of where you come from, of your identity and culture. For our scholars at Mana Academy, this is important because our identity and culture is gives us a sense of belonging. When we are disconnected from our history and culture, we risk losing who we are and our connections to our ancestors and land.

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