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Tiki Central Forums General Tiki Tiki Reference Guide Sought
Tiki Reference Guide Sought
Patron Zero

Joined: Sep 18, 2008
Posts: 2
From: Midwest USA
Posted: 2008-09-18 01:37 am   Permalink

I'm looking for a guide to the essential tiki images represented on the carved statues, wooden or stone, essentially wanting to sort out what deities-symbols refer to whom-what. Having no luck with Google or other search engines so humbly making an open plea for help at this forum. I do know tiki imagery crosses many cultures but best explained as looking for a 'generic' set of deities-symbols to best begin my education on said subject. URLs very welcome as are any titles of books or magazines-magazine articles as well, my sincere thanks to any whom care to reply.

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Robb Hamel
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 07, 2008
Posts: 1013
From: Ohio
Posted: 2008-09-22 08:12 am   Permalink

Hello Patro Zero,

I'm having a similar problem. I've seen Americanized images of what I've been told are some of the rare, real Tikis, but cannot find pictures of the real ones anywhere. As a Tiki artist, I'm interested in a catalog of real and invented Tikis - the best I've found is Miguel Covarrubias' maps (The Book of Tiki), or Crazy Al Evans mind-blowingly cool chess set (Tiki Art Now, pg 24).

As far as cataloging the names of the real ones, the major deities would be fairly easy - esp. Hawaiian - but many other cultures carved images of ancestors belonging to individual families, heroes from their mythology, or one of the nearly infinite spirits they recognized - and most of those are just dorky-looking carvings of regular people whose names have since been forgotten.

The best I've found so far is "Oceania: art of the pacific islands in the metropolitan museum of art." The book throws a lot of names around, but is probably not the catalog you're looking for. Basement Kahuna has a very admirable dedication to real native carvings - I wonder if he knows of a single source for this type of info?

It's difficult to believe that someone hasn't gathered this information together. A catalog of real (?!) and imagined Tikis... I think there is a great book that still hasn't been written.


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Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Nov 23, 2006
Posts: 6161
From: Sun City Lincoln Hills (NorCal)
Posted: 2008-09-22 08:35 am   Permalink

There are so many excellent Tiki reference books, but this little one might help you with a general overview. Tiki of Hawaii A History of Gods and Dreams But the art books are the best...like the Oceanic one you mentioned.

This thread has very helpful sources for you.

"Oh waiter, another cocktail please!!!"

[ This Message was edited by: VampiressRN 2008-09-22 08:39 ]

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11594
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2008-09-22 09:25 am   Permalink

I am sorry, Vamp, but that book you recommend there is one of the worst, fly-by-night, Tiki train-jumping tomes published. Sure, it has some info about temples and deities in it, but I shudder each time I read its take on Tiki culture.

And I am sure you meant to post the COMPLETE link to that wonderful thread on Oceanic Art books:


,not just one highlighted post.

As you folks can see by that impressive thread then, no, there is not one easy, "How to identify YOUR Tiki"-guide. To find out about Tikis takes work and commitment and research and some money --and even then you will not know all, because not a lot IS known, actually. But by going to libraries and looking for Oceanic art, Polynesian art, and Primitive art and mythology books, and visiting museums and their bookstores, you will discover there is a wealth of information out there.
Even putting in search words like the above at Google, Amazon or, low and behold, HERE on TC, will help you come up with leads.

The good news though is, that to create or enjoy Polynesian pop, your knowledge about Tikis is less important than your talent and creativity. For some, too much scholarly info might even be a hinderniss. When Tiki style reigned in America, very little was known about Oceanic mythology, and that little amount was even condensed further for the public. That naivete is part of the charm of mid-century Tiki style.

(Some will say I am contradicting my previous posts about a lot of new Tiki art not having any reference to Polynesian tradition, but as so often, I am expecting the basic ability to DIFFERENTIATE. My previous critiques aimed at examples that hat NO connection to authentic South Seas art, no TRACE of Tiki, just grinning, toothy faces that looked like hippie log spirits. What I am talking about is the right balance between new and old.)

Please, by no means do I intend to discourage deeper research, I am just cautioning folks to not miss or loose sight of the point about WHAT it is that makes Polynesian pop special and unique. If an understanding and awareness of that is present, further knowledge about South Sea art forms will only help create more great and innovative stuff in the Tiki vein.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jun 17, 2008
Posts: 1560
From: Riverside, California
Posted: 2008-09-22 11:17 am   Permalink

My approach to Polynesian pop in any of my crafts is a balance of old and new.

Sven - Thank You for your eloquent post above.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 03, 2002
Posts: 5307
From: Hapa Haole Hideaway, TN
Posted: 2008-09-22 12:19 pm   Permalink

I think the best you can do is find the island root of some image styles. Trying to get a meaning, like Lono - God of War, is just not likely. I don't think many "tikis" have a direct meaning the way you might hope. And where you do find that sort of "This image means that" it is rather suspect.

The three basic Hawaiian tiki styles you'll find easily. Ku, Kane and Lono, though people way too often confuse Ku and Kane. After that, it gets tough.

If you are looking to identify this style carving with that island, look to some Oceanic Art books.

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Patron Zero

Joined: Sep 18, 2008
Posts: 2
From: Midwest USA
Posted: 2008-11-01 11:54 pm   Permalink

My sincere thanks to all who replied, in a nutshell I'm trying to sort out which deities-gods-spirits are considered 'canon' and establish a type of quick reference list of such.

Greatly simplifying a personal project regarding my inquiry but would be most confusing and cluttered to go into more detail here, thanks again !

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Oct 16, 2004
Posts: 270
From: Palo Alto
Posted: 2008-11-02 11:50 pm   Permalink

The Bishop Museum book store has had some great books on Tiki and polynesian art. Especially some of the catalogs from exhibits in the past decades. Unfortunately their online store offers little.

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