A New Zealand rugby tour badge from the early 1900s has leant its name to a new exhibition opening at Auckland Museum on the same day the Rugby World Cup kicks off (Friday, September 9).
Ake, Ake, Kia, Kaha which translates as "forever and ever be strong" was also the haka performed by the New Zealand "Natives" team on their endurance-testing 14-month tour which began in 1888 and saw them play in Australia, Egypt and the British Isles.
Auckland Museums Ake Ake Kia Kaha: The Spirit of Maori Rugby features personal interviews with Maori players from teams spanning the last five decades, from All Black Hosea Gear, who missed out on selection for the RWC side, to Buck Shelford, Tane Norton and Muru Walters.
The film at the centre of exhibition explores the lure of the game, and the international tours and matches that had a lasting impact on the players.
Former All Black captain Buck Shelford says watching the Going brothers play for the New Zealand Maori made a huge impression on him.
"As a young guy growing up and seeing the Going brothers in action with their triple-scissors move - seeing that inventiveness and watching a side that backed themselves to be the best they could be - thats what made me want to play rugby."
In his own rugby career Shelford says being able to bring the spirit and the innovation of the New Zealand Maori team to all his games has been a massive asset.
"We played with pride and we were able to carry that wairua through to all our games."
"It was a huge highlight to play for New Zealand and to captain the All Black side but it was a privilege to play as a Maori and to play alongside those great Maori players."
"In Maori rugby they have never been afraid to try new things. Thats why you saw that flair, that skill coming through. We backed ourselves."
Shelford says that spirit was rife in the side that won the first Rugby World Cup, and featured Maori players Zinzan Brooke, Frano Botica, Steve McDowell and Mark Brooke-Cowden.
"In 1987 we had that spirit, we werent scared and were seeing that now in this All Blacks side - were not afraid to kick when we want to kick, run when we want to run and attack inside our own 22."
The exhibition also features the Prince of Wales Cup presented to the Maori side after impressive play during a tour of Australia, Ceylon, France, Canada and Great Britain in 1927.
It was during this same tour the French were said to have adopted the Maori style of game play.
"People know there have been a lot of great Maori players in All Black sides over the years but Im not sure they realise how much of our national game - the way it looks and the way its played - was shaped by Maori," says exhibition developer Rachael Davies.
"In fact the international games we are about to see over the next couple of months still retain those influences."
One of the most obvious signs of that influence in the All Blacks side is in uniform. Maori player Tom Ellison, who wrote The Art of Rugby Football which features in the exhibition, first proposed the black jumper with a silver fern design in 1892 at the outset of the New Zealand Rugby Union.
Other objects on display include a rugby ball signed by George Nepia, game badges and Hosea Gears Te Ao Hou "The New Dawn" centenary jumper celebrating 100 years of Maori rugby.
The Te Ao Hou centenary jumper was designed by Maori artist Dave Burke who has also been commissioned to design the artwork in Auckland Museums Ake Ake Kia Kaha exhibition.
Ake Ake Kia Kaha - The Spirit of Maori Rugby
OPENS FRIDAY 9 SEPTEMBER 2011
10AM - 5PM DAILY
Auckland Museum, Auckland Domain, Parnell
NO EXHIBITION CHARGE.