Keppel Corp’s entry into the NDP 2018 cheer competition has garnered quite a lot of attention since it was put up on 25th July – and not all of it good.
The Keppel video featuring a little over 30 employee badly imitating the traditional Haka war dance of the New Zealand Māori people was finally taken down from the NDP 2018 Facebook page after a slew of comments from the public deeply criticising the video for being disrespectful, distasteful, an embarrassment to Singapore, and a clear case of cultural misappropriation. Prior to its removal, the video was apparently leading the cheer video competition with the most likes.
On Twitter where the video was shared by SGAG, many users have also responded similarly taken aback by the video with majority of them citing how disrespectful the video is to the Maori people.
Please tell me they are not performing this for NDP… pic.twitter.com/oKdGS5Knfm
— SGAG (@SGAG_SG) July 27, 2018
One user replied with, “On behalf of Singapore, I would like to extend my most sincerest apologies & deepest regrets to all New Zealanders for this insult”.
Anoter wrote, “Keppel stop embarrassing us! This is not what we want to see during our NDP! RESPECT!!!”
Even so, there were a few people who saw nothing wrong with the video and defended Keppel:
“Ok lah. The audience watching also dun know what is Haka.”
“Everybody in the vid seems happy showing the flamboyant side of Keppel. It sure does humour us. Happy NDP 2018 to all sg and happy holidays to all”
“At least they tried not like you, sit on a comfy chair and trying to mock them”
This cyberstorm has even crossed the seas over to New Zealand. An article by Stuff.co.nz noted that Keppel Corporation has no link with New Zealand at all. This makes their choice to use the Haka seem even baffling.
This traditional war cry originally performed by Māori warriors to intimidate their opponents is, in modern times, also a signature of the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby team who perform the Haka before every game. The tradition is also used to in other celebratory occasions such as welcoming ceremonies and even in funerals to honour the fallen.
So you can see why the Keppel employee’s poor attempt at imitating and adapting such an important custom of an indigenous people came across quite terribly.