Hei Tiki

oceania | New Zealand

Hei Tiki

New Zealand

Large Hei Tiki pendant
Maori

Carved greenstone (Pounamu – nephrite)
19th century or earlier
Height: 5 ¼ in. (13.5 cm)

Possibly acquired from Ernest Learning, Auckland circa 1932
Ex collection William Engs Dennis, Rhode Island
By descent
Ex Sotheby’s New York May 2005 lot 2
Ex collection Wayne Heathcote
Published: John Giltsoff 2009

Large Maori Hei Tiki pendant 13.5 cm / Galerie Flak Price on request
On view at La Biennale
Grand Palais Ephémère, Paris
26 Nov. - 5 Dec. 2021

This carved Hei Tiki figure is a representation of the primordial ancestor of the Maori people. This pendant is carved in a superb piece of nephrite (pounamu in the Maori language). This greenstone, which is found only on the South Island of New Zealand, was a highly valuable material. It was particularly prized by the Maori for its hardness and its color.
The figure is shown head-on, his head leaning to the left. He is sticking his tongue out, a symbol of power for Maori warriors. The facial features (nose, mouth, eyes) are finely and deeply carved.
Hei Tiki pendants were worn around the neck on a narrow cord of woven fibers. These prestige ornaments were passed on from generation to generation.
Hei Tiki pendants were said to bring the protection of the clan ancestors to the wearer, and served as a statement of the clan’s affiliation, going back to Tiki, the mythical warrior.
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