Māori experts support haka use in rap clip

By Talisa Kupenga

An American rap video featuring Māori warriors performing a haka has gone viral on Facebook with more than 4,500 shares and 250,000 views. Māori media experts say they enjoyed the clip as it is respectful and positively represents Māori culture. But the question is should Māori embrace the cultural recognition or reject it?

They're not haka experts but AUT’s Te Ara Poutama lecturer Robert Pouwhare says he'll give them a pass-mark.

“I don't mind it because it isn't offensive. They didn't say: That is not how they treated the haka. It is done respectfully.”

The song Motivation by Utah-based James Curran also known as Jamesthemormon is about family, working hard and pushing through hard times.

"It's a traditional war dance and it’s to pump you up and motivate you to win and I feel like any person that's what they’re doing in the morning,” says Curran.

Māori from Utah's Brigham Young University participated in the project.

Dr Ella Henry from AUT told Te Kāea, "I'm from a school that is quite happy for non-Māori to take Māori symbols and Māori cultural practice and use them and share them because for me that keeps our culture alive and widespread."

Curran says, "I think it's a very motivating dance and I tried to make it so it was authentic we have actual Māori’s doing it, everyone was Māori.”

Appropriation of Maori culture has been seen before but Pouwhare says if it's done right its ok.

“The Māori culture and indeed the world is changing. If we're not forward-thinking we will get left behind. The bigger picture is that Māori is being shared with the rest of the world.”

This is probably not the last time Māori culture will be used by those from overseas.