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The role of women in the traditional use of the haka Ka Eke i te Wiwī

Taipari Munro recounts the traditional role women played when the ope taua performed Ka Eke i te Wiwī to the haukāinga in preparation for battle.


When the young men were being prepared for war, the chiefs and the priests would line them up in groups – the war party on the marae. The whole of the people would gather there, looking at the war party, along with the women. The women would carefully watch the haka of the men to check all were in unison, the leaps in the air, landing together as one, the hands operating as one, the way they held their weapons, the taiaha, the tewhatewha weapon, all those kinds of things. If the women decided to join the haka, they would come out and stand in front of the war party and perform a return haka with their taiaha, their patu, all those kinds of weapons, and this was a good sign. But if the women didn’t come out and perform a haka in reply, then the priests and elders knew they had seen a bad sign, and the war party would not go off to war. That is why the women used to watch the men so carefully when they were performing this haka.