"The Magik of the Tiki Maker" from my Tiki Art Series
It was summer in 2004, and I was doing some gallery shows in Maui for a few days. I had this night off, so I started to explore parts of the Island I used to go to as a kid with my family. I could see West Maui was becoming increasingly crowded with condos and time shares. Areas near the cane fields and old homes and stores where I once played were disappearing. It was sad to see the place where I first had a "Maui Potato chip" was no longer the same. A little store/place where you could get them early in the morning, still warm in their see-through cellophane bags. Tourists had only begun to hear about them when I was a kid. Most locals had retreated, or sold property to developers. The sound of tropical breezes in the cane fields and palms were being replaced by the sputter of rental cars and construction cranes. I miss that old Maui, and was on a quest this day to find some old familiar magic.
I wandered down in the evening, to where the old Banyan tree is in the South end of Lahaina. The sky was approaching dusk, swirling in sherbet orange with tufts of violet, cotton candy clouds. Under the tree was a man, bare footed and shirtless, obvious Pacific Islander, chopping and chipping away at wooden Tikis for sale to the tourists. He didn't engage much at first...he seemed almost depressed or incredibly focused, but I couldn't resist approaching him. Something about his intensity and focus on his work spoke of a familiar creative soul. So, artist to artist...I began to ask him questions.
After an hour or so, this guy seemed like an old friend. He came to Maui from Samoa when he was a child, but his Grandfather had spent much of his life here on Maui. His family all carved bowls and Tikis and tribal clubs to tourists. I shared a few pictures of my work with him and he got a big kick out of my art. I ended up sitting there eating half of a sandwich for dinner that he had in a cooler that he insisted I take part of. I saw this before many times. Many of the real Pacific Islanders were beyond generous and very warm souls. As time went on and the sun was replaced by the street lamps and store windows near by, I asked this guy if he knew any traditional stories or folk tales about Tiki Carvers or Tiki things. It was only a moment later that he put his carving machete down and his face lit up a bit.
The carver began to say, "When I was a little boy, my Grandfather told me a story I asked him to repeat many times before I fell asleep at night. It was about a Tiki Carver who no one ever saw with their own eyes. He was said to live in a hollow tree in the deep jungles in the upper Island. His tree was near a river that flowed down to the village, by the sea. At night on a full moon, the villagers could hear the chipping and sawing continue all night long, without pause. Just before the sun would rise, the villagers would awake, and look in the direction of the hollow tree deep, in the jungle, upstream. What was most amazing, was that it was said that a strange, phosphorescent glow would be see through the trees moving along the river. This glow would grow brighter and nearer, till the villagers could see with their own eyes, a large Koa Canoe arriving in the river, with a great glowing ring of light in the water around it. The canoe was filled with Tikis, carved in the night. These were gifts from this mysterious Tiki Maker, that returned for many centuries, during the beautiful, Island, full moon. The villagers were forever thankful, for these Tikis, when sold, brought them food and things they needed to support their families and fellow villagers."
Well, I loved this story, and the carver I was sitting with was so happy and chuckling after he told this to me. I thought maybe it was because he was making this all up...and told him he was full of it! lol But he said no...and that he laughed only because he remembers his Grandfather laughing and telling this story...and that it was about real magic. So I walked away that evening making a new friend. I looked back and remember him rolling up blankets and putting away his carvings for that day in cardboard boxes. As I walked back to where I was staying, it was a typically beautiful Maui night. Stars like fireflies, everywhere...almost touchable! I had my inspiration for a new painting and would do my best to do justice to that story I was told. I called the painting, "The Magik of the Tiki Maker" and you can find it in my Tiki Art series.
I hope you enjoy this painting as much as I enjoyed creating it. Please share it, and the story with someone very special to you!