What is Tiki?

Tiki’s are the soul of Polynesian culture, they are the name given to carved wooden idols representing the first human being on Earth (Tangaroa) and their many gods and the Polynesian people live in a world created by them. In everything the local people do from fishing to hut building and agricultural practices, skill, aided by rituals offered to the various gods (in the form of carved Tiki’s) would be seen as part of their success in their actions. Tiki’s were therefore revered but were also said to have human like qualities that turned them into pranksters that fuel the myths and legends that are still told today.

Tropical beach scene

Tiki Bars

Simplified by American culture in the 50’s and 60’s, Hawaii and Polynesia became the symbol of exotica. Films, music and literature depicting beautiful white beaches, turquoise blue water with a background of lush vegetation and seemingly carefree Island people gave way to a pop culture that romanticised these islands and celebrated them for everything that post war America wasn’t at that time. Fuelled by the likes of Donn Beach, a bootlegger from the 40's who after a stint in working in Hawaii started 'Don the Beachcomber' in Los Angeles, serving rum based drinks surrounded by Polynesian decor and nautical treasure, and Trader Vic's another Polynesian themed bar, other bars and hotels started popping up with giant Tiki’s, Polynesian and Hawaiian décor and island crafts inspired by that very culture. Somewhere along the way the more themed these establishments became the more tacky they were deemed to be until the total demise of their once thriving popular culture.

Tiki Bars Now

As with everything that falls out of favour, the eclectic mix of music, tiki mugs and island crafts have become sought after and here in the UK there is a resurgence in it's following. Whilst the grandeur and scale of these American establishments are gone, smaller elements of tiki bars are making a come back and once again people are beginning to search for those now collectable pieces hidden in charity shops and look to Polynesian style as something again to be romanticised.