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20 Apr, 2020 19:50

UK nurses’ anti-coronavirus haka denounced by Maori as ‘racist’ and ‘cultural appropriation’

UK nurses’ anti-coronavirus haka denounced by Maori as ‘racist’ and ‘cultural appropriation’

A viral video of a group of British nurses dancing and chanting against Covid-19 was deleted from Twitter after complaints that it amounted to mockery of a sacred tradition of the Maori natives of New Zealand.

Over 600,000 people viewed the video, posted on Saturday by nurses working at Tavistock Hospital in Devon, England. It shows them attempting to do a ‘Ka Mate’ haka while wearing headbands and face paint.

“This is the message we wish to affirm, you'll never beat us – we hate you, you germ,” one of the nurses can be seen chanting. “Together we'll triumph with the strength from within. Mankind will destroy you, mankind will win.”

The performance was “absolutely offensive and degrading,” Maori cultural adviser Karaitiana Taiuru told New Zealand outlet Newshub. “It is distasteful and disrespectful to the descendants of Ngati Toa and to all Maori.”

This is blatant cultural abuse that is verging on being racist.

The avalanche of responses online ranged from people agreeing with Taiuru to those pointing out more mundane issues with the video. Some highlighted that the nurses were standing too close together and not wearing protective equipment, violating the government’s ‘social distancing’ guidelines.

Others wondered how they were able to put together a viral video at all during a pandemic that was presumably taking up all of their time and energy.

The video was taken down by Monday and replaced with a “wholehearted apology” to anyone who was offended.

“We’ve really enjoyed seeing the video messages from nursing colleagues up and down the country and we are really sorry that our choice of delivery caused offence,” the hospital tweeted.

Ka Mate is a Maori ceremonial haka dating back to the early 19th century. It gained worldwide recognition thanks to New Zealand national rugby team the All Blacks, who traditionally perform it ahead of matches.

There have been almost 126,000 registered cases of Covid-19 in the UK as of Monday, with over 16,500 fatalities.

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