Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1807 Maori ariki
Subjectariki / rangatira warrior chief
Culture: Maori
Setting: Musket Wars, Aotearoa / North Island 1807-1830
Object: pendants

Hei Tiki

* Barrow 1978 p25-26
"The most famous jade or greenstone ornament type of the Classic Maori is the small ancestral pendant named hei-tiki.  (Hei means a pendant, and tiki a human image.)  Hei-tiki are popularly the most symbolical of Maori culture in the whole range of art objects. ...
"The simple explanation of hei-tiki is that they are ancestral mementos which were passed from generation to generation.  They acquired personal names and much magical prestige (mana) from the fact that they were worn on the body of nobles and at times had rested on the corpse of some beloved relation. ...
​    "On the occult side, hei-tiki were said to represent Hine-te-Iwaiwa, the moon goddess who possessed fructifying power.  The form resembles an embryo but this seems to be a coincidence.  The general modelling is influenced by the intractable nature of the nephrite material, plus an attempt to superimpose the artistic conventions of woodcarving art ...."

* Stafford 1996 p74 = Stafford 1997 p56
"Of all ornaments, the tiki is the most widely known.  Of grotesque human form, it was eagerly sought by early collectors and so most were produced in post-European times.  The predominant shape -- tapering towards the sideways tilted head -- is considered the result of converting smaller greenstone adzes into tiki, once steel made stone adzes obsolete.  A common perception that the tiki represents the human foetus and promoted fertility is dismissed by experts."

* Starzecka ed. 1996 p28 (Ngahuia Te Awkotuku, "Maori: People and culture" p26-49)
"Hei tiki (nephrite neck ornaments) are not only tapa by their intimacy with the wearer, but they absorb the person's mana, and in some instances may be associated with the collective or accumulated mana of succeeding generations."

* Starzecka ed. 1996 p43 (Ngahuia Te Awkotuku, "Maori: People and culture" p26-49)
"The most famous of all Maori jewellery items is the hei tiki, the humanoid figure described in many contradictory accounts [citations omitted] and attributed with 'fructifying properties,' or with having the appearance of 'Tiki, the First Man'.  The latter attribution is unlikely, as hei tiki are emphatically female or quite sexless.  The pronounced and often dilated vulval area, splayed hips with arms akimbo, bulging eyes and hugely gaping open mouth might represent a woman in childbirth, and thus the birthing goddess Hine-te-Iwaiwa; but like the theory suggesting the ornament represents an embryo, this is still speculation.  Oral and family history nevertheless records instances of women, previously barren, who conceived on being given hei tiki by their husbands or parents."

* Best 1952 p230
"This odd-looking, grotesque object has been the subject of much speculation and some erroneous statements.  It is a rudely fashioned figure intended to represent the human embryo, and it was viewed as a fertilizing agent, hence it was properly worn by women only."  [CONTRA Stafford 1996 p74; Stafford 1997 p56; Viola & Margolis eds. 1985 p133: "The {male} Maori chief Pomare would not even take his {heitiki} off to enable Expedition members to look at it."]

* Arts of the South Seas 1946 p51
"Small implements of finely colored jade were often worn as ornaments.  The most prized of all native decorations was the hei tiki, a small grotesque human figure carved from fine green jade.  The making of such an ornament required months of labor and hei tiki were handed down in chiefly families as heirlooms.  In some cases they were worn only in alternate generations, being buried with the owner, then dug up and worn again by a grandchild.  There was also a regulation that the wife of a captured chief had to send her hei tiki to the wife of his captor."

* Meyer 1995 v2 p552 f631
"In pre-contact times, the figural hei tiki chest pendant was reserved only for the highest-ranking nobles.  Following Captain Cook's first visit, however, and as a consequence of the obvious European taste for jade hei tiki, the Maori began democratizing the production and wearing of the pendant to such an extent that by the mid-19th-century it was possible to see men and women walking the streets of Auckland and Wellington wearing three or more of them around the neck."

Rei Pura