Footage posted online of a group of dancers from the Czech Republic performing a mock haka has caused anger and upset, with several people slamming it as “disgusting” and “offensive”.
The video was posted to Instagram this week, drawing ire from New Zealanders who accused the dancers of “cultural appropriation”. It has had more than 22,000 views in three days.
The caption for the post, translated to English, says “When the girls have Haka on the hook” and includes hashtags such as #bollyhaka, #facepainting, #dancefusion and #newzealandinspiration.
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In the comments, numerous people ask the user to take the video down and apologise.
“That’s not dance fusion. That is truly awful cultural appropriation. Please stop,” one person said.
“This is really not okay. Remove and apologise,” another Instagram user said.
“Please educate yourself, the cultural appropriation that is presented here is very disrespectful,” someone else commented.
The same Instagram account, run by a choreographer and dancer, also posted portraits of each of the dancers involved in the video, with their faces painted.
Māori cultural adviser Karaitiana Taiuru says the video “represents an emerging trend of online caricature depicting Māori as savage, uneducated and aggressive people, disguised as humour in the same manner that the Black Face is/was to African Americans”.
“This is blatant racism that frankly impacts all Māori and especially impacts those Māori who choose to revive our ancient customs of facial tattoos called Ta Moko (men) and Moko Kauae (females),” Taiuru added.
He says the people in the video are “pure racists” and their depiction of Māori people will “only incite and promote further online caricature against Māori”.
“They have no idea about what the haka or Māori tattoo art represents, and their actions imply that Māori are sexually aggressive which is another colonial stereotype that does not reflect Māori culture,” he added.
Expert calls for government intervention
Taiuru believes social media such as Instagram has wide impact on Māori children, “who could be put off their culture and made to feel ashamed by such videos”. “An almost digital re-enactment of the Native Schools Act and Tohunga Suppression Act,” he added.
He calls on the Government to step in and legislate against racism online.
“The current protection offered to such racists by social media conglomerates and free speech advocates, in addition to a lack of legal protection in New Zealand, only fuels such unacceptable behaviour,” he said.
“This highlights the need for the New Zealand Government to legislate against racism online and the need for a by Māori – for Māori Internet Safety organisation where Māori do not feel culturally unsafe engaging and reporting such despicable material.”
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