Woodcarving is one of the oldest arts in the South Pacific, and Polynesian tikis are renowned throughout the world for their unique and detailed craftsmanship. Tikis are large wooden (or sometimes stone) carvings of human forms; these stand-alone statues, as well as tiki masks, are common throughout the Fiji islands.
In Polynesian mythology, “Tiki” is the divine ancestor of all Polynesians and is sometimes known as the “First Man.” He is believed to have dived into a pond where he found Marikoriko, known as the “First Woman” and later to have led his descendants in a fleet to the first Polynesian islands.
Also according to Polynesian mythology, tikis are sculptures that represent various gods and each tiki is believed to house a specific spirit. The old religion in Fiji maintains its practice of tiki worshipping, so it is not uncommon to find tikis in the homes of indigenous Fijians.
Tiki culture has even spread across Fiji in a secular fashion. The islands are inundated with tiki statues, masks, torches and other tiki carvings used for decoration. A single
Fijian tikis also commonly feature turtles, geckos and the ceremonial dancing knife called “Nifo Oti.” Tiki artists aim to combine craftsmanship, aesthetics and meaning when they make their carvings. The masks are usually carved out of hardwoods and finished with wax, oil or polish, though some masks also feature colors. Fijian tiki masks can range anywhere from 20 to 100 cm (8 to 40 inches) and are widely available for purchase.
Tikis have also influenced the style of décor in Fiji. The government buildings found in Suva, the capital city, are a sight to behold, with their startling roofs modeled after traditional tiki-style Fijian huts.