All About Tiki's: An in-depth guide

Who is the Tiki:

A typical tiki design takes the form of a humanoid figure (human like) with larger than life eyes, a large grimacing or angry feeling mouth and arms crossing or holding their stomachs. These exaggerated features were created to show the differing abilities and temperaments of the polynesian's gods. Because of this, tiki's became representative of the polynesians gods. Now tied to the islanders' religion, the art and sheer amount of tiki's grew throughout the island over time. The first Europeans became enthralled with these tiki totems and how the islanders would interact with them. With this in mind, travel was not easy in the 1700's, especially island nations which had to be accessed by water. Only the richest Europeans owned a ship or had the ability to travel to these nations. The tiki's that would be brought back would become a symbol of the wealthy and well traveled that others would never be able to get their hands on.

 

Polynesian myth describes the original man, who also was a god, named tiki. Tiki the god created humans and all life in his image. Thus carvings of the humanoid creature became representative of the god Tiki. Therefore, it became known that having a totem like this would bring good fortune. It was not difficult for an islander to have a because a tiki totem could come in any shape and size. From a tiny necklace to massive totems standing at the entrance of the building, cutlery, dinner wear and everything in between could be used as a lucky totem. In addition to varying sizes of the tikis, they could also be made in varying materials like the well known wood and stone. And the typical tiki design could even vary between the regions where they were created. For example, the polynesian tikis are different from the large totems that can be found on Easter Island. 

 

Tiki culture became very popular in the western United State of America in the 70's. Shaping the way houses were laid out, how furniture would be built and how patios would be decorated. The tiki atmosphere became known for peaceful tranquility that all americans are drawn too. Good examples of this are the squidward's tiki land episode of spongebob and the enchanted tiki room in disney's magic kingdom. Differing from the original intent of the tiki, Americans interpreted tiki culture to be fun loving and free island life rather than the religious icon. Because of this people merged Hawaiian shirts, grass skirts, wall mounted goofy faced tikis and "tiki" bars with the polynesian lifestyle. 

 

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The history of the Tiki:

While we touched on the background of the tiki in the earlier section, this section will further delve into the history of the tiki. The first man alive, similar to christian's Adam and Eve, was named Tiki. While he was the first living being, Maori mythology believed he was the first and only god to exist. Then like the idea of Eve, Tiki either created a wife for him and thus started a family and then the human existence, However, another story has the idea that Tiki mixed his own blood with some clay to create the first humans and remained strictly in a god to the creations capacity. A third rendition to the story explains how Tiki led an incredibly lonely existence and wanted nothing more than to have a companion. One day, while sitting by edge of the water noticed his reflection and became overjoyed. In his joy, he dove into the water to embrace his new found friend, only to find that the reflection shattered from his dive. Filled with sorrow, Tiki filled the pool with mud in an attempt to cover the reflection in the future, but the earth rewarded him by giving birth to a female companion. 

 

Completely different from the polynesians form of the singular tiki god. The Hawaiian religion pays tribute to four gods named Ku, Lono, Kane, Kanaloa. Each god having their own realm respectively; Ku was the god of war; Lono was the god of fertility and peace; Kane the god of light; and Kanaloa the god of Sea. While the worship of these gods has dramatically decreased in passing decades the original believers paid respects to the gods in the form of prayers, lava sledding, chanting, surfing and in the most dire times; human sacrifice. With this in mind, a tiki totem in the hawaiian region would represent a very different concept than the polynesian region. Because the Hawaiian region had multiple gods, the tiki's facial expressions could mean different things. If the tiki's facial expression was angry it might be an ode to Ku (the god of war), whereas a happy smiling tiki may represent the god of light, Kane. Leading to the idea of respective main worship groups similar to Greek mythology. 

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What is Tiki Pop Culture:

Driftwood, coconuts, bamboo, tropical flavors and rum—lots of rum—are the essence of the tiki pop culture. The first tiki bar started out in the 30’s, in a time where cocktails consisting of a mixture of tropical flavors had been an outlandish thought to the American public. Nowadays, tiki bars are cherished for the way they craft revolutionary cocktails with extraordinary ingredients. But, tiki is greater than simply a bar and restaurant. It’s a lifestyle for people with the ardor for this particular artwork of cocktails and the exotics of Polynesia and the Caribbean. But what is the tiki tradition and what does qualify as a tiki cocktail?

The History of Tiki Bars:

Ernest Gantt (better known as Donn Beach) built the first tiki restaurant in California in the 1950s, and the rest is history. In an over-the-top tropical bar, he paired his extensive knowledge of far-off tropical lands with his drinking talents. He wasn't the only one who changed the cocktail industry, either. Victor, often known as Trader Vic, opened his own tiki bar with world-famous cocktails.

 

Palm palms, feet in the sand, and turquoise beaches were a far-fetched ideal for many people at the time. Donn and Vic both recognized how the tropics enticed consumers to spend extra money in order to sample some tropical delights. They both started experimenting with flavors that were influenced by the tropics.

Understanding Tiki Culture:

Donn was a well-traveled man who had visited countless islands, and it was his curiosity that inspired him to open the amazing Beachcomber. His excursions to the Polynesian islands, as well as all he's seen in the Caribbean, served as the foundation for his restaurant. His café was brimming with the trinkets he'd brought back from his travels.

However, Easter Island heads, Cuban rum, and Chinese cuisine aren't necessarily representative of Polynesian culture. People still bought into the environment he was selling because no one could go to Tonga and see if people really did drink drinks with three layers of rum, pineapple juice, and an umbrella on top. The success of his business established the foundation for subsequent tiki restaurants and bars, notably Trader Vic's.

 

The word Tiki is derived from Maori mythology. The Maori are New Zealand's indigenous Polynesian people. Tiki is the first man created by Gods, according to their faith. Polynesian cultures have carved pictures of Gods in trees since the beginning of time. When Trader Vic's first tiki restaurant opened, he installed a similar sort of carving from Tiki outside (which became known as the "Tiki statue"). On their menus and other presentation materials, they used the same image. This was the start of the tiki pop culture connection between Polynesia and the rest of the world.

Essence of a Tiki Bar:

Vic dressed up his restaurant by trading knick-knacks for cocktails with his visitors, whereas Donn adorned it with everything he acquired throughout his travels. They developed an escape in which they could leave the outer world in literally one step and enter a universe that was the polar opposite of their own.

 

Tiki figurines are still present at tiki restaurants and bars, but there are also dark string lights, bamboo, palm palms, and coconuts to be found. Plus, 50 colors of brown and the oozing sound of tropical rain.

 

The escapism provided by a tiki bar, however, is not limited to the décor; the beverages themselves transport patrons to a tropical paradise. A tiki cocktail is made up of components that, like chemistry in a glass, balance and compliment each other. It's layers of tropical tastes with a complexity that can overwhelm a first-timer, and it's presented in an unusual way to catch the eye.

Flavor Structure of a Tiki Cocktail:

Tiki drinks were known for their heavy use of rum. He created a Rum Rhapsody that evolved through time but remains the core of a superb tiki cocktail. Take the Planter's Punch, for example. It's based on the same poetry, which says: One sour, two sweet, three powerful, four weak—and five spices to make it lovely. This does allude to the fact that a proper tiki cocktail must have 1-part sour juices, 2-part sugar syrup, 3-part alcohol & liqueurs, 4-part juices or (ice) water, and baking spices or bitters to give the cocktails a unique flavor profile.

 

Rum is the base taste of a tiki drink. It's always been like way, and it'll probably always remain that way. Then there are the fresh juices, such as lime, pineapple, grapefruit, and orange juice, which give it a tropical flavor. The layered richness derives from a combination of rum and juices, as well as several liqueurs, bitters, and syrups. Consider Falernum, Orgeat Syrup, and, of course, Curaçao Liqueur (a component in the world's greatest tiki cocktail, the Mai Tai).

Flavor Structure of a Tiki Cocktail:

Tiki drinks were known for their heavy use of rum. He created a Rum Rhapsody that evolved through time but remains the core of a superb tiki cocktail. Take the Planter's Punch, for example. It's based on the same poetry, which says: One sour, two sweet, three powerful, four weak—and five spices to make it lovely. This does allude to the fact that a proper tiki cocktail must have 1-part sour juices, 2-part sugar syrup, 3-part alcohol & liqueurs, 4-part juices or (ice) water, and baking spices or bitters to give the cocktails a unique flavor profile.

 

Rum is the base taste of a tiki drink. It's always been like way, and it'll probably always remain that way. Then there are the fresh juices, such as lime, pineapple, grapefruit, and orange juice, which give it a tropical flavor. The layered richness derives from a combination of rum and juices, as well as several liqueurs, bitters, and syrups. Consider Falernum, Orgeat Syrup, and, of course, Curaçao Liqueur (a component in the world's greatest tiki cocktail, the Mai Tai).

What is a Tiki:

What are these fabled symbols, and how do they relate to Hawaiian culture? If you've ever seen the wooden, novelty replicas of the old hand-carved figures, you'll note that a tiki was meant to symbolize highly significant, recognized authority, such as primary gods, guardians, and spirit forces, based on their ready positions and stern facial expressions.

 

Few tiki fans are aware of the tiki's unique history and spirituality, but even a quick account of the tiki's original function will give you an idea of how important symbolism was in traditional Hawaiian society.

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The Tiki's Origin (Another View):

About a thousand years ago, the earliest residents of Hawaii arrived from Polynesia, bringing religious and spiritual beliefs with them. Tikis were used to represent the numerous gods of Hawaii and Polynesia. Tiki can refer to a variety of pictures used across Polynesia, ranging from ceremonial images used by Maori tribes in New Zealand to Easter Island's moa carvings to modern-day images shown in Hawaii.

Tiki is frequently associated with the first human being on Earth in Polynesian mythology. These motifs are still employed in spiritual practices in some Polynesian tribes today. In New Zealand, miniature tiki sculptures are commonly worn as protection against infertility.

The gods, the aina, or land, and the kanaka, or people, all lived in harmony in ancient Hawaiian civilization. The gods were appeased if the humans took care of the land in a pono (proper) manner. If the gods were pleased, the land would supply nourishment for the people via its lush growth. Each god had a variety of kinolau, or manifestations, including human and animal forms.

Tiki sculptures were constructed to depict the visage of a particular god as well as the mana, or power, of that god. With well-formed tikis, the people may be able to protect themselves from attack, boost their might in times of conflict, and be rewarded with abundant crops.

The Primary Hawaiian Gods:

  • Ku - the god of war

  • Lono - the god of agriculture and peace time

  • Kane - the god of creation, sunlight, forests, fresh water

  • Kanaloa - the god of the sea realm

Hawaiian Tiki Gods.jpg

What Cultures Involve Tikis:

Tiki is a Maori mythological figure. The Maori are New Zealand's indigenous Polynesian people. Tiki are the first men created by Gods, according to their faith. Polynesian cultures have carved pictures of Gods in trees from the beginning of time. When Trader Vic's first tiki restaurant opened, he installed a similar sort of carving from Tiki outside (which became known as the "Tiki statue"). On their menus and other presentation materials, they utilized the same image. This was the start of the tiki pop culture connection between Polynesia and the rest of the world.

The ancient Hawaiians used a variety of ingenious communication methods to keep their gods close. Tikis were designed to serve as a means of communication or engagement. The Hawaiian people were certain to pursue the proper route to conciliation if they continued to communicate with these all-powerful deities. All Hawaiians were said to be derived from the gods' ancestry. The alii nui, or high chiefs, were responsible for maintaining societal equilibrium and ensuring that the gods were treated with the utmost respect through a variety of means.

The gods' direct descendants, the alii nui, were entrusted with a considerable deal of power. In addition to tiki figures, the higher spirits and governing deities were honored in traditional Hawaiian culture via every activity. Divine guidance dominated society, from the whale's tooth pendants, feathered helmets, and feathered cloaks worn by rulers, through animal sacrifice and religious traditions that segregated men and women during meal times.

King Kamehameha II abolished the traditional system of religion known as aikapu in 1819, and the majority of temples and sacred icons, including tikis, were destroyed. However, some tiki relics have survived to this day as a reminder of a time when Hawaiian culture was governed by rigid religious beliefs. According to Hawaiian legend, there was a period when gods wandered the earth as men, and tiki statues honor both their divinity and their human traits. Tikis reminded the people of how near the gods' world was, and reaffirmed their recognition of the gods' incredible might.

The first stone tikis are said to have been carved in the Marquesas Islands about the year 1400. From huge sculptures of the war God Ku to pictures of various gods carved into drums, boats, or other utilitarian things, to petroglyphs etched into rock or tattoo patterns on the body, the tiki can take many different forms. Tikis show a great level of craftsmanship and perfectionism in their creative likenesses. The most well-known tiki has a muscular, stocky torso with a rectangular head that seems to be wearing a headpiece. With huge eyes and a stance that implies he is ready for battle, this strange figure is quite terrifying.

 

Beginning in the 1930s, a whole "tiki culture" based on South Pacific island life sprang up around these strange statues. Kitsch artifacts such as tiki sculptures, tiki torches, rattan furniture, tropical-print textiles, and wooden or bamboo things were displayed in tiki-themed restaurants. Mai tais and other fruity tropical beverages were offered in tiki bars. Tiki culture quickly gained popularity in the United States, with South Pacific influences appearing in everything from clothes to interior design. Tiki culture, the aloha shirt, and other island emblems became extremely popular when Hawaii became a state in 1959.

 

Today, enormous wooden statues may be found in a variety of locations around the Hawaiian Islands, including the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu's North Shore. Visitors may enjoy a tropical beverage amidst an amazing number of tiki memorabilia at La Marianas on Sand Island in Honolulu, probably the most popular tiki bar in Hawaii. Visitors to Hawaii may find tiki imagery almost anywhere, but keep in mind that these images formerly symbolized the cherished and venerated Hawaiian gods while you browse through the tourist-oriented mass-manufactured tiki products

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Are Tikis Still Current:

When Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States on August 21, 1959, Tiki Pop culture exploded. Hawaii and Polynesia were already well-established as vacation destinations in the imaginations of Americans, and they represented an escape from a civilization based on conformity and discipline. Rather than being restricted to clubs, restaurants, and bowling alleys, they can now be found everywhere. In America, Tiki culture presented itself as a type of design in upscale homes, with a taste for "Primitive art" in exquisite interiors such as apartments and business buildings. The impact of Tiki Pop might be seen in the décor of bowling alleys, apartment complexes, and hotels. In the 1960s, the Tiki Modern design style was immensely popular. It fit nicely with the atomic age design trend that was fashionable at the time, since it combined Polynesian elements with clean, contemporary lines.

The Tiki craze peaked in the mid-1960s, and by the time the Vietnam War began, it had come to an end. What was previously fashionable and fashionable was now regarded tacky and out-of-date by a younger generation that had rejected their parents' morals and tastes. Tiki bars began to collapse in droves, and Tiki culture's appeal began to fade in the late 1970s.

Many people think of Tiki as mid-century kitsch. Surprisingly, the offspring of the generation who dismissed mid-century Tiki style are now embracing it as a cultural homage. Not just in the United States, but also throughout Europe, new bars are being established. In London, there is a prominent tiki restaurant and cocktail bar called Kanaloa, while in Berlin, Germany, there is the Palm Beach, which has five locations. In September 2014, the Musée du quay Branly in Paris, France, hosted an exhibit called "Tiki Pop" in honor of a new book by Tiki expert Sven Kirsten that featured museum collections as a retrospection of Maori culture and a look at the modern Tiki craze that its discovery sparked throughout the Western world. As part of the show, there's even an authentic-looking Tiki bar.

Popular Use Of The Tiki Today:

Structures from the early 1960s have persisted to this day (both commercial establishments, apartments, and private dwellings). Many of these are superb examples of tiki architecture at its best, with soaring entrance gables and thatched-look roofs. Many examples may be seen in southern California, where the warmer temperature is ideal for Polynesian-style architecture and where Tiki's popularity has never waned. Despite the fact that many people feel Tiki has been forgotten for decades, it has never lost its appeal in San Diego. At modern culture, programs like "Magnum P.I." (1980–1988) and "SpongeBob SquarePants" (1999–present) have kept the Polynesian adventure concept in the forefront of our thoughts, as have attractions like Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room at both the Anaheim and Orlando Park sites and the always popular Freaky Tiki Surf Shack (one of the premier surf shops in Clearwater Beach, FL.

It's certainly no accident that Donn Beach's initial Tiki movement began during the Great Depression, and that the more recent Tiki Revival began during the 2008–2009 economic crisis, dubbed the Great Recession by some. Reality might be tough to face at times, necessitating retreat in a dream world like that provided by a Tiki bar. Even if it's only for a short time, it's excellent to unwind and enjoy friends and cuisine with delicious beverages, music, and a tropical atmosphere.

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