Maori artist and activist Mihirangi came to Montreal thinking her all-female haka workshop would be held in a smaller venue.
But due to high demand – over 950 RSVP’s on the Facebook event – it was decided that the workshop would be held on main stage at Place des Festivals, on the first night of performances for the city’s First Peoples’ Fest.
“The women who attend the workshops are really searching,” she said. “Some are just curious.”
The Haka taught to Wednesday’s diverse gathering of women was written to empower and celebrate women in the era of MMIWG.
It’s a common theme in her performances as Mama Mihirangi & the Mareikura – a dance-electronica trio comprised of women who strive to honour their traditions.
“The haka has always been used as a form of challenge- whether it’s a personal challenge, or a challenge for others, or a challenge of the issues,” Mihirangi explained. “It’s an opportunity for people to come together as one unit, with one voice, expressing themselves in a really passionate way.”
The outdoor space filled quickly despite a heavy rain warning.
There’s a common misconception that haka is a Maori ceremony reserved for men.
Mihirangi says that women and children also participate: it’s a way of harnessing critical energy and life source, or “mana.”
“Globally we’re going through a big crisis, and women must stand up,” she said.
“The women’s haka is an opportunity for women to embody the virtues, you know, feminine virtues and their own personal power and strength.”