National | Haka

'Mystery school' previously accused of abuse, slammed for culturally appropriating haka

By Stuff reporter Melanie Earley. Photo / Stuff

A group which teaches ‘sacred sexuality’ courses has been criticised by Māori academics for their “cultural appropriation” of the haka.

Video has surfaced showing members of the International School of Temple Arts (ISTA), which has previously been accused by former members of turning a blind eye to predators, performing a haka during a Zoom meeting.

ISTA markets itself as a path to self-discovery, freedom and spiritual awakening through individual and group sexuality.

Participants who have done ISTA training in New Zealand and overseas have described how at "temple nights" each evening, people are free to approach others and make requests of them, usually sexual.

The group also performs haka at festivals around the world, video seen by Stuff has shown.

However, Rex Rafiq, an ISTA leader in New Zealand, said the haka is not part of the group’s training.

Haka in Israel

Rafiq said he didn’t want to speak to the media about what the curriculum content of courses was and it was something for people who were “drawn to attend” to learn.

The video showed four members performing a haka has been slammed by Māori cultural adviser Karaitiana Taiuru who said it was “offensive and cultural appropriation”.

Other videos supplied to Stuff showed other incidents where leaders and members of ISTA were performing the haka in Israel.

One video showed ISTA facilitator Buddhi Dana, based in Israel, do a version of a haka with seven other men.

“Non-Māori should not be teaching any haka as it is a sacred ritual for us,” Taiuru said.

”There are many kinds of haka and protocols associated with each – it would be like me, a middle-class Māori male, dressing up as a Buddhist monk and teaching one aspect of their religion without understanding.”

'Most exploited'

Rafiq said he did not know who had seen the footage or why they were “upset” or felt it was offensive.

The haka being performed in the video was created by a strategic war leader, who hid in a kūmara pit when being chased, Taiuru said.

“Inside the pit he chanted this haka. So it is a sacred haka and a Ngāti Toa haka.”

The Ka Mate haka was one of the "most exploited and appropriated" haka, Taiuru said.

”It’s commonly used in New Zealand and abroad, often by drunk expats in London, and I think as Māori we are becoming numb to the abuse.

”The people in the video are making an absolute mockery of the actions and are missing out on many of the words.

'Racist expropriation'

“They’re making a total joke out of Ngāti Toa's treasure, and our nation's most widely known and respected haka.”

A spokesperson for Ngāti Toa, which is the legal custodian of Ka Mate said the haka committee would decide "on the best course of action".

AUT business professor Dr Ella Henry (Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Kurī), said the video was a “disgraceful example of cultural appropriation”.

“It’s also an example of the racist expropriation of indigenous culture for material gain,” Henry said.

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