Tiki Culture


Carving is one of the oldest known art forms with documented stone specimens dating 25,000 years ago. One of the most famous is the tiki, known as ki‘i in Hawaii, large wood and stone carvings of humanoid forms deriving from the Central Eastern Polynesian cultures. Images of Polynesian gods were carved into large sculptures by tribal communities for thousands of years.  From the giant heads of Easter Island to the detailed Maori pendants and the ancient Hawaiian poles, these sculptures were used to mark sacred areas, the most enduring purpose for ancient figures. Aside from the ancient wood structures, there is a whole other “tiki culture” developed from 20th century American pop culture. In 1934, Ernest Gantt (better known as Donn Beach) opened his first Polynesian-themed Don the Beachcomber restaurant in California. From then on, tiki bars, tiki cocktails and a myriad of tiki merchandise became wildly popular. The tiki fad remained in style through most of the 1950s, even making its way into Hollywood feature films.  While the style eventually died down, tiki culture has recently reemerged, seen mostly through the growing interest of Polynesian tribal tattoos, images and designs, which resemble a similar style of the ancient woodcarvings. From the old culture to the new, tiki tradition will continue to carry on. 

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