Kia Kaha is a Maori phrase used in New Zealand and it means “be strong” or “stay strong”. It is used as an affirmation, as a term of comfort or solace (an equivalent of be strong – my thoughts are with you) and is sometimes used as a valediction at the end of messages. It became popular through it’s use by the 28th Maori Battalion during World War II. You’ll find it in books and songs, in poetry and used as a motto.
This is purely my opinion, but it seems to me that in the past twenty-five to thirty years, we New Zealanders have become more aware of our history, our nation, the beauty that we have here, and as our sense of belonging and identity has grown, so has our sense of national pride. As such kia kaha is a term that is often used to encourage those representing New Zealand to the world. My interpretation is that it has come to mean this:
‘stay strong, your brothers and sisters in New Zealand are here with you; you have our support, and we have your back’
I think it’s fair to say that when we see our national rugby team, the All Blacks perform the haka (traditionally a Maori war cry or challenge) we have a sense of identity, of pride, of something at an emotional level that says “this is part of my homeland, this is part of my identity” even though I am a New Zealander but not of Maori heritage. Such is the sense that “this is part of who I am” that it can, and often does, evoke an emotional response when a New Zealander abroad is confronted with a haka (often performed as an honour towards the person/team/group for whom it is given).
From my perspective this is a wonderful thing – it’s not a nasty overt sense of pride (like a desire to dominate the world), it’s simply an acknowledgement that ‘this is from my homeland; it relates to my sense of belonging; my place in the world’ regardless of where I am currently living.
I am proud to be a kiwi (a New Zealander) and I am proud of my country – it’s identity, it’s beauty, it’s belief in itself – we were the first country to give women the vote, and in the 1980’s we stood up to the world and said no to nuclear ships entering our waters. We are small but we know our mind. We have a sense of honour and value and respect for our country and it’s history and it’s peoples, regardless of where they are from.
To my online friends I offer these words: kia kaha – be strong.