If you want to know more about the art and culture of Polynesia, where the ancient Hawaiians originated, you don’t need to buy an airline ticket to Tahiti.
Instead, you can visit Havaiki, a gallery and shop in Hanalei Center on Kaua‘i’s North Shore and meet Dylan Thomas. (Yes, that is his real name.)
Thomas sails the Pacific for two months each year in a 55-foot sloop named Compadre seeking and buying Oceanic and tribal art — figures, masks, other icons, paddles and jewelry. His business partners, Jim and Vicki Punter, live aboard and sail the boat.
Thomas says the objects and art in his shop are “culturally important and often functional for ceremonies and other uses,” and thus are not made for the tourist market.
“Ninety percent of the people who come in here tell me it’s like a museum,” he says proudly.
There are few paintings, he says, because most Polynesian art is made of wood or bone and other materials.
“Every piece is a story,” says Thomas, who likes to talk about the history of each piece in his shop.
The name of the shop, Havaiki, means “small heaven” in the Tahitian language and in legend is thought to be the birthplace of the Polynesians, he says.
Thomas, a 33-year-old native of South Africa, says that now 40 percent of the items in the store are made by artists in Hawai‘i, including Kaua‘i.
For example, “Kele” Hayward of Kaua‘i makes elegant paddles from koa and other hardwoods.
He, Thomas and a younger sailor, Bennie Ferris of Kaua‘i, last year sailed 2,400 miles across the Pacific, stopping along the way to buy artifacts for the shop.
Havaiki, which opened in May 2007, is located in Hanalei Center behind Bubba’s Burgers and is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.
For more information, call the shop at 826-7606 or visit the website at www.havaikiart.com.