style originated in the late 1940s
as a romanticised interpretation of Polynesian culture
, partially inspired from what GI
s serving in the South Pacific
saw and loved. Tiki style is meant to conjure up a laid-back and friendly lifestyle, with its exotic features being balanced by goofiness.
The west's love affair of Tiki extended its way from thatched bures and faux bamboo wall coverings to Hawaiian shirts, ukulele music, mai tais and other rum punches in coconut shells with paper parasols, South Pacific, string curtains, frangipani, Bali Hai and Elvis Presley's swivelling his hips hula-style. And of course, the tiki totems themselves. Taste, and for that matter, geographical and anthropological accuracy, don't seem to play much a part in Tiki design.
A tiki itself is an image of a Polynesian God, or ancestor figure, who personifies man, or the first man. The term has also been extended to include all carvings resembling people. In Maori lore, Tiki was the name for the procreative power and sexual organ of the god Tane, creator of the first woman. Air New Zealand I recall gave out plastic tikis to their passengers as marketing premiums. Tikis were originally, and still, used as decorative omens by surfers.
There were several Tiki styled bars opened in America, most famously Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vics in 1950s Los Angeles, which included Marelene Dietrich, Bing Cosby and the Brat Pack. No doubt several living rooms were also inspired by Tiki designs; just look at The Brady Bunch and guess which setwork came off Gilligan's Island.
Tiki slowly died out in the 1960s, perhaps because of the Vietnam War - some would say America matured to the point it would consider Tiki style too contrived, kitsch and brash, or people felt uncomfortable seeing television pictures of US soldiers torching villages made out of the same materials as their coffee tables.