Title / object name
Hei tiki (pendant in human form)
|Maker ||Role ||Date |
|Unknown ||craftsman ||1750-1900 |
|Overall ||121 (Length) x 73 (Width) x 9 (Depth) mm|
This female hei tiki is made from a kahurangi (pale) variety of pounamu (New Zealand greenstone). Her head is inclined toward her right shoulder, and her right hand extends across her chest. Her elbows and chin are particularly prominent. Tiki with such features are sometimes referred to as 'bearded' tiki. This particular type of tiki is thought to represent a Bay of Plenty style.
Theories of origin
Various forms of tiki are common throughout western and eastern Polynesia, and the form can be found in the wood carving of different Pacific island groups. However, the meaning of the Mäori hei tiki pendant is obscure. One theory is that hei tiki represent Hine-te-iwaiwa, a celebrated ancestress associated with fertility and the virtuous qualities of Mäori womanhood. Another theory is that hei tiki represent Tiki, the mythical first human. A further suggestion is that they represent the unborn embryo, particularly children that are stillborn.
An iconic symbol
Hei tiki have become iconic emblems of both the Mäori people and New Zealand. In the 1960s and 1970s, green plastic hei tiki were routinely distributed to passengers flying on New Zealand's national airline, and one of the enduring photographic moments recording the Beatles 1964 visit to New Zealand depicts the 'fab-four' wearing giant tiki around their necks.