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

Published: Faces, visible - invisible, April 2021
Large Maori Hei Tiki pendant 13.5 cm / Galerie Flak Price on request
This carved figure is a representation of the Maori people’s original ancestor. This Hei Tiki pendant was 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 and particularly prized by the Maori for its hardness and its color.
The figure is shown head-on, its head leaning to the left, and sticking its tongue out – the symbol of the power of the warrior in Maori art. The facial features (bridge of the nose, mouth, eyes) are delicate, carved deeply into the stone.
Hei Tiki pendants were worn around the neck on a narrow cord of woven fibers. These ornaments were prestigious, and were passed on from generation to generation. Hei Tiki were said to confer the protection of the ancestors of the clan to the wearer, with the clan’s affiliation going back to Tiki, the primordial man.
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