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The History of Tikis in Maori Culture


You probably have seen tikis in popular culture, movies, and on your tropical vacations before, but do you know the story behind these items? The tikis are steeped in rich native history that not many people know about. Let's take a look at their origins, the different types, and their significance to Maori culture.

What is a Tiki?

The term 'Tiki' is generally used to describe a carved human-like figure traditionally worn around the neck by both by the New Zealand Maori and other polynesians. Many believe that the name 'tiki' comes from the myth of Tiki, who was the first man created by Tane. The full name is Hei-tiki. 'Hei' means to wear around the neck.

In Maori culture, Hei Tikis are treated as family heirlooms and are worn during ceremonial occasions in New Zealand. Even if the tiki is not old, it is still highly prized by the family. The tiki is prized not only because of the precious materials and the labor-intensive process to create it but also because of the spiritual value it carries.

The Styles

Hei Tikis are were most commonly made of nephrite (known as greenstone or Pounamu) which is a highly valued stone found in southern New Zealand. Whale bone and Whale teeth were also used. Nowadays, many of the modern iterations of the Tiki are carved from Beef bone.

Tikis usually have a human shape, with a head either upright or tilted to one side. Some tikis will also feature a torso, arms, or legs as well. The eyes of the tiki are traditionally filled with red wax or Paua Shell.

Find Your Tiki

We offer a wide selection of traditionally and contemporary designed tikis for you to choose from.

Visit our store to see our collection.