SEVEN TIKI - White RumFuji Rum
Tiki is a word found across the islands, and cultures, of the Pacific. In fact, in the 1960s, when mind-bending anthropology and psychotherapy was all the rage in California, linguist and language archaeologist Merrit Ruhlen studied the roots of global languages, and decreed that. Tiki' was the first word. In the beginning, then, was a word which probably means phallus more than anything else. No wonder Tiki Culture became a symbol of the Swinging Sixties!
But it is also a word with much relevance for New Zealand, and the Polynesian peoples who settled these islands. Across the Pacific, from Hawaii to New Zealand, and from Fiji to Easter Island, tiki represent the first man, the God of artists and often war, as well as, in Aotearoa, being the figurative representation of Tane, Lord of the Forest and creator of the first woman. Thanks, Tane.
But the Tiki is not just a mythological figure. It is an almost tangible representation of the warrior spirit of the peoples of Polynesia, great mariners and courageous adventurers, who settled an area twice the size of Asia in just 1500 years. At a time when Europe was all of the Mediterranean was under the Roman yoke, the first wave of migrants reached the 'Polynesian triangle' from Fiji. From there, they set out to forge a new world in a tropical paradise, leaving the Hawai'ki of myth, and settling Samoa, Tahiti, Hawaii and the Cook Islands.
When the pressures of population and politics became too much, they heeded the words of Kupe, the great explorer, about the large and fertile land that lay far to the south, across wild water and at a distance as great as that crossed by Columbus. The legend tells of seven waka, the 'Great Fleet' that obeyed Hinemoana's call, and set forth to settle Ao-tea-roa. Arawa, Aotea, Horouta, Mamari, Mataauta, Tainui and Takitimu are names familiar to all New Zealanders, and all Maori trace their ancestry back to one of the seven great waka that gave birth to a new nation.
However, the legend of the Great Fleet is, unhappily, just a legend. The modern arts of archaeology and genetics have shown that Maori made many voyages to New Zealand, settling it over a period of about 400 years, with the major movements happening around 800 years ago. This by no means diminishes the scale of their navigational feats across the Pacific. If anything, the mind boggles more at the thought of continual voyages back and forth, carrying migrants, flora and fauna to the new land.
New Zealand lies at the corner of the Polynesian triangle, and is an integral part of the South Pacific. Maori developed their own vibrant, unique culture, though it was much influenced by, and descended from, the cultures spawned through the 'stepping stone' migration back and forth across the Pacific Ocean. New Zealand was the last part of the Pacific to be settled in the 4000 year migration from East Asia, but directly north of New Zealand lies Fiji, the islands from which the colonisation of Polynesia set forth 2000 years ago.
In some small way, we like to think of Seven Tiki as 'squaring the circle' of Polynesian movement, and it is named in homage to the great settlement fleets of our recent legends. Of course, Seven Tiki does not take 1500 years to reach New Zealand, nor does it cross the maritime constellation of Polynesia, but the rum does take a voyage of sorts, from the heart of the tropics to the lush, green land of the Long White Cloud.
The idea of the 'Island Paradise' represented by the Tiki has had a strong hold on the 'civilise' imagination since the European explorers like Cook and De Bougainville returned with great tales of the exotic in the 1700s. It has fuelled everything from political philosophy - Rousseau's Noble Savage - to abstract art.
Picasso considered the defining moment in his artistic education was viewing a collection of Tikis in a Paris museum. He wrote that 'Suddenly, I realised why I was a painter; by 1910 he had acquired a Tiki of his own, which stayed with him through political exile and countless mistresses.
'On the island of Otaheite, where love is the principal occupation, the preferred luxury, or more precisely, the unique luxury of the inhabitants, the bodies and souls of the women, are formed to perfection. Joseph Banks, 'Oh to be born on one of the South Sea Isles as a so-called savage, for once to enjoy human existence as pure and untainted by a fake aftertaste.'