bigger is betterStill haven't come down from the weekend's kapa haka buzz. The videos are on endless repeat at my house until I've got all the words and actions down pat. I love Te Matatini competition, one of the very few times where Maoris take centre stage WITHOUT a police officer, social worker, WINZ officer, radical protester, mealy-mouth politican or condescending academic in sight. A rare occasion indeed where underachievement and crime are blissfully, momentarily forgotten and the mood is all positive. So it's with some trepidation that I broach a rather 'weighty' subject. I know that standards of beauty fluctuate with time and across cultures, but with respect to haka this needs to be said: "Fatties Rock!"
Firstly, men. It's no wonder it's the big boys who get front row positions. Nothing is more underwhelming than watching matchstick men haka. If a guy's chest is wider than his stomach, my interest approaches zero. In the performance arena where your whole body 'talks', nothing speaks louder than heft. A rolling, rippling mass of flesh enhances visual appeal, particularly the fluid undulations that accompany and accentuate a well-timed rhythmic takahi (foot stamping). Please! Spare us the (literally) gutless skinny boys and bring on the sumo wrestlers.
Likewise the women. I agree with Roseanne Barr that an important woman should take up space. Onstage, nothing is more thrilling than a 'woman of substance' in full throe - eyes ablaze with pukana - threatening, intimidating and demolishing an audience like a force of nature. Kapa haka is not ballet with its frail, delicate wisps in danger of blowing away in the wind. Good performers have 'presence' - and lots of it! Admittedly, I'm biased in that Ngati Porou's (my tribe) style of haka demands excessive 'swing' of the hips to produce the sinuous, wave-like motions so characteristic of the East Coast. Without the requisite size, body movements too easily become fragmented and jerky. You need to make that piupiu (skirt) shake, and you need hips to do it!
So a bouquet to the big girls and boys who purposefully use their fuller figures to maximum effect. I admire their natural confidence, showmanship and defiance of the mobs of anorexic wannabes and their tiresome obsession with thinness.