An inside view of Hanalei’s tribal art shop
The gallery/giftique offers a carefully curated collection of one-of-a-kind, primitive treasures.
In the whimsical town of Hanalei on Kauai’s lush north shore, a tribal art shop adorned with tiki poles and flaming torches beckons passersby inside. Venture onto the lanai (porch) and you’ll experience an authentic sampling of the Pacific islands’ history and culture.
Havaiki Oceanic and Tribal Art is part gallery and part giftique. The shop, which feels like a museum, features a carefully curated collection of one-of-a-kind, primitive treasures, such as an octopus lure from Hawaii ($325), spirit masks from Papua New Guinea ($225 to $795), handcarved koa wood bowls from the Solomon Islands ($495), cannibal forks used by attendees of Fijian ritual feasts to feed those considered too holy or royal to feed themselves ($495), and a decorated ancestral human skull from the Asmat Tribe of West Papua.
Each item has a story. And every story is rooted in the unique Oceanic traditions still practiced in some of the more isolated parts of Polynesia, including Hawaii. While many items are priced in the thousands of dollars, there are plenty of lower priced gifts—wood-carved turtles ($4.50), Kauai sea glass necklaces ($38), Hawaiian tiki replicas ($175)—available for those who want to bring home a more affordable sliver of Polynesia.
Much of Havaiki’s inventory has been hand-collected by gallery owners Jim and Vicki Punter and Dylan Thomas. In 2002, the trio embarked on a 40,000-mile sailing adventure aboard the Punter’s 84-foot-long ketch named Firebird. The five-year journey landed them on the shores of some of the most remote areas of the world—Tonga, New Caledonia and the Society Islands, to name a few—where they filled their boat with the intriguing and spiritual works of artisans living in tiny villages sealed off from Western influence. Havaiki is filled with these otherworldly crafts as well as local Hawaiian art and pieces from the private collections of other expeditioners. It is the intention of Havaiki’s owners for their shop to help the people of Oceania perpetuate their rich traditions and culture by funding authentic Oceanic art and sharing it with shop visitors from around the world.
“Everyone is just shocked when they come in,” says Havaiki co-owner Vicki Punter. “The phrase we hear the most often is, ‘You’ve got really, really cool stuff.’”
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Havaiki’s name is derived from the fabled homeland where the Polynesians believe their spirits are born and return to in death. The shop is located off Kuhio Highway in Hanalei Center.