In Hawaii, where cheap souvenir tikis can be found everywhere, Havaiki is a diamond in the rough. This Hanalei gallery, named after the legendary homeland of Polynesians, specializes in traditional art from the Oceania region and points beyond.
In 2002, Jim Punter and his wife, Vicki, left their home on the Virgin Islands and for five years sailed around the South Pacific, buying and trading for art directly with villagers. Their goal was to open a gallery on Kauai, which is overseen by Dylan Thomas, a native of South Africa who was first mate on that epic voyage. He’s a delight to talk with (especially with that accent!) and a wealth of information about the collection.
Some visitors compare browsing in the store to like being in a museum. I especially like the little room decorated like a hut with a bamboo and thatch entrance.
A wide array of items are for sale, including carved tikis of various sizes, war clubs, shields, masks, paddles, walking sticks and tapa cloth, plus handcrafted jewelry. They also have an online store and a Facebook page where they post photos of the latest acquisitions.
Dylan continues to make trips to the South Pacific to stock up on artifacts, but a growing part of the gallery’s wares come from local artists in Hawaii. In fact I’m quite sure that these tikis were made by the carver I saw over at the Westin Princeville.
A lot of work and care has been put into curating the selection, which is something to account for when looking at the prices. There are some budget buys among the big-ticket items, though.
If you find the island weather too humid and your shorts too constricting, you can purchase your own koteka, hand-woven from natural fibers by the Asmat people in Papua New Guinea. Just tie one of these “penis gourds” around your waist and you’re ready to go…or you could just display it in your house.
One of my favorite pieces was this modern reproduction of a Dayak Kliau (shield) from East Kalimantan, Borneo. The description says it would have been used against blowpipe attacks and the “curvilinear designs convey fierceness and preservation of vital energies.”
Havaiki Oceanic & Tribal Art is located among the stores in the Hanalei Center, conveniently just down the street from the Tahiti Nui tiki bar. The shop is not immediately visible from the highway — it’s in a cottage-like building behind Bubba’s Burgers. You should see a couple tikis mounted on tall poles signaling you’re headed in the right direction.
Havaiki Oceanic & Tribal Art
5-5161 Kuhio Hwy. (Hanalei Center)
Hanalei, Kauai, HI 96714