Thus wrote Thor Heyerdahl in "Kon-Tiki": "The unsolved mysteries of the South Seas had fascinated me. There must be a rational solution of them, and I had made my objective the identification of the legendary hero Tiki!" Inspired by the mythical Tiki, Thor created a body of work that was to have a decisiveinfluence on what we will call Polynesian Pop (wait for "Thor and Tiki -Western European temperament and the exotic other"). As we set out to illuminate the unsolved mysteries of Polynesian Pop (and it's protagonist, Tiki) in the future issues of this periodical, it seems mandatory to delve into Tiki's prehistory before he became, for a while, the American god of recreation.
As the intrepid armchair explorer reaches to his closest means of research, his lexica and dictionaries, a startling fact comes to light: the word "tiki"does not exist in the Hawaiian language! It's frequent use in this cradle ofPolynesian Pop today is just another example of pan-Polynesiancross-pollination. This multicultural mingling of island civilizations beganin the precontact period with inter-island outrigger travel, continued with European trader traffic, and reached it's peak in the tourist culture of the 50's and 60's. Once it had arrived on the mainland, any narrow mindedscholarly concerns of authenticity and political correctness were cast asideto give way to liberal re-invention of Polynesian culture which we all enjoy:American Tiki-style. Here, all representations of the Hawaiian war god Ku, Easter Island statues ( correct:"Moai" ), "Uli"-cult figures from New Irelandand Cook Island fisherman's gods became members of one happy family: The Tikis!
But back to the origin of the word: looking it up in "Reed's concise Maoridictionary ," we find: "Tiki: First man, or personification of man." Through ancestor worship, this Moari Adam evolved into a demi-God, and eventually "Tiki" was used to signify all carvings resembling the human form. Some of these were used as dwelling places for ancestral spirits or as the vehiclesof gods, while others were used for sorcery.
The next entry in the dictionary describes the well-known appearance of this: "Tiki:
Grotesque carving of man on house" quite concise. This tradition inspired American tiki temple decor as we know it.
Very few insiders though were aware of the next meaning: "Tiki: A phallicsymbol." Suddenly, we see the subject of our research in a distinctlyFreudian light. Indeed, further study of Polynesian mythology reveals that inMaori lore, Tiki was the name for the procreative power and sexual organ ofthe god Tane, creator of the first woman. On Raevavae in the Austral Islands,just south of Tahiti, where ritualistic temple-sex was practiced, "tiki-roa"meant "the penis" while "tiki-poto"was the term for "the clitoris." (Otherfine vocabulary to spice up a conversation and give you an idea of what wasgoing on there would be "huri popo" - "public sodomy" or the ever popular"pa-kika" - "for a female with an enlarged clitoris to mount another female.") Some of this energy must have subconsciously struck a cord in our parent's'generation (meaning the prewar born), whose restricted sexual imaginationfound an outlet in such a kind of "National Geographic eroticism." Apparently, the spirit of whimsy which permeates Polynesian Pop also finds it's counterpart in traditional tales transmitted from the Marquesas. Here Tiki,the first man, comes across as a real swinging guy:
While Tiki and his daughter were living together he told her one day that he was going out to catch fish. He asked her to follow him later with a basket for the fish. 'You will come to the beach,' he said, 'and go to a place whereyou will see a flock of birds hovering about something which is sticking outof the sand. That will be the place.' And so Tiaki did as he had told her, she went to the beach with her fish basket. She saw the flock of birds and also something standing up above the sand. Thinking that it was their pointed stick for stringing fish, she took hold of it and pulled. And Tiki, who had covered his body with sand, jumped up crying, 'Who's this, pulling on my ure?' And he laughed at her shame. When she saw that it was her father and that what she had in her hand was his, Tiaki reproached him: 'O Tiki, this is a dreadful thing that you have done, a most horrible act of yours!' And he laughed at her again; and she called him 'Tiki the slimy', and 'Tiki the rigid', and 'Tiki the trickster.' That is how Tiki earned those names of his.
These kind of hi-jinks would have made bible study much more interesting! The Marquesans, with their seemingly modernistic carving style, also had one more meaning for our ancient hero, which explains all the previous attributes and possibly his influence into modern days. Hitherto little known, it is perhaps my favorite: Tiki - god of the artists.
...special thanks to Jeff Berry for the Marquesan story