5/6/2012 Tiki SHopping in Hana Vave
Our second day in town our goal was to be invited in to see either the work of a traditional carver or to see the women making Tapa cloth. So armed with my Marquesan hello "ka OH ha" we set off into town. We stopped again at the community store and eventually hit on the magic word: Tiki. Soon we were following a smiling man along a winding lane not quite sure what were would find. Evidently we were at the right place at the right time because we ended up at the Chiefs home where she employs three men (all relatives) to work full time in her carving shed. They carve traditional figures out of native hardwoods. We spent probably forty five minutes there though we didn't buy anything. The men were eager to talk and even more eager to show off their beautifully sculpted objects.
There were definitely beautiful tiki's but they also began pulling out carved manta rays, turtles, traditional masks, bowls, platters, ceremonial paddles and war clubs from first a trunk and then fro all over their home. One carver was working on a sort of free form three dimensional piece: a flowing wood seascape with a separate manta ray. WOW.
After leaving them we were met along the lane by another family. They had carvings, jewelry and dried bananas for sale. We bought bananas but passed on the art and headed farther into town. Next came a woman just out it seemed for a stroll and trying to act uninterested but as we closed in she smiled at our "ka OH ha" and then said shyly, Tiki? We'd been found out. The whole island seemed to open for us. Every carver, tapa cloth maker, jewelry maker, carvers momma and tapa grandma was happy to show us to their work shed.
The people here work all year making their art and then once a year it is loaded up on a ship and sent to the Expo in Papeete, Tahiti for sale to collectors and importers from all over the world. They ship dried bananas by the gross, tons of carvings and stack after stack of Tapa cloth. Other than the one small store which must only employ a worker or two the local arts are the only game in town. Carving, making tapa, offering traditional dinners to visitors, fishing and Noni plantation workers (Noni is a plant cultivated for it's medicinal properties) are the only income producers for the entire island. Accordingly nearly every household has a carving shed or a place where the women pound out the Tapa cloth from the bark of three local trees. We followed brothers, mothers and cousins up and down almost every little lane in town and no one seemed bothered by our one noun one verb conversations. Eventually we bought a carved turtle and a rosewood mask and later a serving tray. We made friends everywhere we went and every families was welcoming regardless of whether or not we decided to buy something. Definitely a great way to kick start our South Pacific adventure. Thanks Fatu Hiva.
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