Are you particularly interested in the mythical, the mysterious and the exotic?
Are you planning to decorate your garden or interior with a spirit that evokes the mystery of the Pacific Islands ? Well, you should know that the Tiki is an essential element to this style of décor. Combining authenticity, exoticism and majesty, this decorative object is a true symbol of Polynesian culture. In this article, we tell you everything you need to know about it!
Origin and meaning of tiki
In Tahitian, Tiki is called "Ti'i". This word means "demigod", and according to legends, it would simply be the creator of man. In addition, according to Polynesian sorcerers, the Tiki would be endowed with supernatural powers.
As you can see, it is an important object of Polynesian culture, especially on the spiritual level.
The different parts constituting the Tiki each have their own meaning. The size of the head of the tiki is the symbol of its power. His mouth, which is very stretched (sometimes the Tiki even pulls out his tongue or shows his teeth.) marks the challenge he throws at his opponent. Finally, his eyes reflect his divine power and the infinite knowledge he possesses.
Among Polynesians, Tiki is revered by all. It represents, their distant ancestors and their ancient gods. As such, it has a ritual value, like an amulet or a talisman, and is transmitted from generation to generation.
The Tiki can be represented in different forms. But the most common are masks and Tikis statuettes. When the Tikis are depicted in statuettes, they always adopt positions of the Haka, an ancestral dance of the South Pacific.
Polynesian Tiki and Legends
Half-man half-god, the meaning of Tiki varies depending on the place. However, it is generally recognized as having a protective power. Nevertheless, to take advantage of its protection, it must not be prejudiced.
In this regard, a legend tells that on the island of Moorea, a man cemented the Tiki placed in his garden, for fear that it would be stolen from him. Only some time later, his legs became heavy and he then found himself practically paralyzed. His health problems were not solved until he made the connection with the Tiki and decided to de-enter it.
How to recognize Polynesian Tikis?
Symbol of Polynesia, the Tiki can be neutral, beneficial, or in some cases, evil. Present in many homes, Tikis are easily recognized by their unique appearance.
It is usually a wooden sculpture representing an entire character, or a wall mask. When in the form of a statuette, the Polynesian tiki represents a stocky man with a large head and big eyes. His hands can be placed on his belly, or arranged along the body, but his legs are still bent.
You can also rely on its large, oversized mouth, which is often very expressive. Finally, Polynesian tikis can represent an entire character, or sometimes only a head with a strange look.
The characteristics of Tikis masks and statuettes
The Tikis are therefore strong and representative symbols of Polynesian and Hawaiian culture. but they are also decorative objects that offer a real ornamental potential.
The most authentic and decorative pieces are made of carved and hand-painted wood. They are intended to represent deities or ancestors, each of whom has a different history and powers. Among the most often represented deities are:
- Tiki Kane, the almighty god who created the earth and the universe
- Tiki Ku as God of War
- Tiki Lono : the god of agriculture and peace
- Tiki Kanaloa : the god of the marine worlds
Because of the supernatural powers granted to them, tikis when placed in a private house or in a public place, can offer protection from dangerous temptations, threats and evil spirits. They also have a reputation for bringing good luck to everyone in the house or place in question. Some even believe that tikis have the power to promote fertility within a family.
Indeed, Polynesian believers believe that a Tiki representing a particular god can radiate the magical powers of this one in the house. Thus, Tiki Ku can bring strength and resilience to family members. Tiki Lono promotes peace there. And Tiki Kane attracts the benevolence of creative forces.
More generally, whatever god is represented by a Tiki, he will bring to the home a better comfort of life, confidence and assurance of a bright future.
How are they made?
Although there are also stone ones, most of the authentic Tikis statuettes and masks are carved by hand from a local wood that is most often the coconut tree or albizia.
Once the sculpture work is finished, a finish is applied by the craftsman: it can be a simple varnish, or sometimes colorful patterns painted on the tiki, such as pineapples, palm trees, bird feathers, or even a surfboard!
The artisanal quality undoubtedly brings a real decorative advantage: as everything is handmade, no two Tikis are perfectly identical, and this unique side is noticeable at first glance.
According to Maori legends, in order for deities to instill protective spirits in masks and statuettes, tikis must be made in accordance with traditions. Craftsmen must therefore be precise and methodical, while paying special attention to the many details. This requires precision and flawless skill.
Tiki statuettes and masks can therefore be considered true works of art.
Meaning and uses of Tiki masks and statuettes
As we saw at the beginning of this article, in Polynesian culture, Tikis masks and statuettes are above all spiritual and religious symbols.
Over time, their meaning has continued to evolve and enrich. Now let's see how we can interpret the meaning of tikis in their original culture.
According to the god depicted, the Tikis offer their owners protection from various evil spirits.
Tiki Lono protects crops and helps maintain a climate of peace with neighbors. But in case of conflict, Tiki Ku, with his easily recognizable fierce face, will bring the strength and resilience to face trials.
Tiki Kane offers a shield against most of the dangers that can come our way.
Finally, Tiki Kanaloa supports fishermen and all those who venture into the high seas.
Placed outdoors, Tikis sculptures or totems also serve as protection of borders, villages, and temples. It also works at home! So to protect your property, consider installing a Tiki in your garden for example!
For Polynesians, Tiki masks and statuettes are also used to remember and honor their ancestors.
Some tikis are therefore carved in such a way as to imitate the distinctive features of the face of a tribal ancestor. In this case, the Tiki is considered an embodiment of the spirit of this deceased ancestor.
Thanks to this tradition, Polynesians can keep their most glorious ancestors close to them, in their community.
In addition to uses for religious purposes, Tikis can also be placed inside a home in order to attract good fortune for household members. According to ancestral tradition, this would allow, for example, to have more chance that the events will take place favorably for the family, or to hope for good harvests.
Spiritual protection, luck, and ancestor worship: here are the 3 pillars on which the beliefs related to the Tikis are based. If you are sensitive to these ancient legends, why not expose a tiki mask or even a tiki totem at home to benefit from its protective and benevolent aura?
Where to dispose of the Tikis?
The representations of Tikis exist in wall version, or to pose. These are mainly masks, statuettes and totems.
Wooden Tikis can be placed both inside and outside the house, depending on the expected results and your preferences. They bring an artisanal and ethnic touch to your decoration.
If you decide to use a Tiki for your outdoor decoration, it is best to protect the wood beforehand with a water repellent or lacquer to protect it from moisture. If you decide to place a totem pole or a Tiki statue in your garden, consider finding a place sheltered from the wind because a fall could damage it.
Inside, tikis have such a strong decorative potential that they are self-sufficient! Wherever they are found, they become objects of all curiosities and attract the eyes like magnets. If you are looking for an original and really evocative decorative theme, then tikis have serious arguments to convince you. There is currently a real craze for this decorative style, and the phenomenon of "Tiki Bar" arranged in the living room or kitchen is the perfect illustration!
To highlight the Tikis in your home, the best solution is to associate them with the materials and colors of their land of origin.
Here are our suggestions of materials that combine wonderfully with Tikis:
- driftwood and exotic woods (teak, mahogany, coconut ...)
- Sand, shells, mother-of-pearl
- palm thatch (this straw that is used for the roofing of traditional huts)
- artisanal basketry (rattan, raffia, sea rush or abaca...)
- coconut spathes, coconut shell
For colors, think about the ones you see on postcards from Hawaii or Honolulu:
- Sand yellow
- Lagoon blue
- Pearly white
- Pebble grey
- Green as the lush foliage...
Give it a try, and you'll see how easy it is to create a real holiday atmosphere at home with just a few Tikis, and a little creativity!