Posts Tagged Tiki

1950s Tiki Culture / Exotica Documentary (“The Air-Conditioned Eden”) (Parts 1 and 2)

Tiki_Anthony_Eisley_Hawaiian_Eye_1961

Tiki culture gave repressed 50s Americans an excuse to be freer

This documentary is about “Tiki Culture” & Exotica in 1950s American pop culture. It aired circa 1999 as part of Channel 4’s “Without Walls” series. It’s a fascinating look at how Americans created a weird fusion of cultures (originally drawn from Hawaii, Polynesia, and Oceania), to escape from the sexual and social repression of their daily lives. Tiki had its own music (Martin Denny & Exotica music is featured) and the style influenced arts, design, leisure, architecture and much else. Some even tried to create a Tiki home. But why? What drove this?

Jarrett Hedborg, an Interior Designer who contributed to the documentary said:

“A lot of this look is about running away from technology. The idea of the White man’s garden of Eden and this feeling of refuge. It is feasible to have the fantasy of sitting on the beach under a palm tree looking out at the Pacific even though you’re sitting on your bamboo sofa in Des Moines, Idaho staring out at your back garden.”

Delusional? Maybe!

Walt Disney even created a big Tiki attraction at Disneyland.

At one point America (and particularly American men) went crazy for the idea of natives who lived by different standards and who gave them permission to be freer. The swaying hips and beckoning hands invited them to join a fantasy. The effect on other cultures and how they defined their identity was almost certainly more negative. Their culture was distorted and projected back to them. By the 60s Tiki began to disappear. It became an embarrassment and most hid their Tiki paraphernalia.

As one of the contributors sums up: “Tiki was a purely populist or pop culture phenomenon. It was very loved by the people but discarded and shunned by culture critics and writers. The elitists were demanding more authenticity. The people didn’t care. They didn’t know better so they just had fun with it.”

Fascinating.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

Part one is here

Part two is here

 

Leave a Comment