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Tipping Tiki

 

I did a series of paintings of Hawaiian ki'i interacting with kitchy tiki stuff, sort of "Revenge of the Actual Tikis." The image is one of the gouache sketches. "Ki'i" is the Hawaiian equivalent of saying "tiki." We say tiki because English explorers like Captain Cook and his merry crew visited Tahiti way before Hawai'i, and, based on their exposure to Tahitian language, were used to saying "tiki" instead of "ki'i." Also used to saying "Tabu" instead of "kapu," and "tapa" instead of "kapa." Sort of like if a race of super-wealthy, incredibly militarily powerful natives from Papua New Guinea came to the US after visiting Germany and insisted on saying, "Guten Morgen" and "Danke" and when we corrected them with "Good Morning" and "Thanks," they'd get all defensive and huffy and say, "Oh, get over yourself, it's the same thing." Probably be frustrating.

So...the ki'i. My original notion was to just portray the two objects side by side. The regal, ancient, somber ki'i just standing near the zany, part-colored, grinning tiki mugs and bottle openers. But when I juxtaposed them, the expressions on the ki'i seemed to take on new relevance. I stress here that I have not changed the expressions on this or any of the ki'i in any of these paintings. That would be disrespectful to the spirit of these images and to those who still revere them. I was going for ironic, which takes accuracy. Check me. This is what the ki'i really look like. This little figure is in the Bishop Museum, in this exact pose. All I did was add the mug.

In some paintings the ki'i seem to be taking action, chucking mugs off tables and such, although I never alter their expressions or their posture from the original. In other paintings, the ki'i seem to be just looking on with an expression that usually looks like "What the...!!!" Someday I'll do a show. But first I need to add more figures from other cultures around Oceania, the Marquesas, Easter Island, Fiji, etc. Some carvings from Papua New Guinea look seriously pissed off.

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