Today marks a momentous occasion...an anniversary to remember! There couldn't be a better day for me to write a post related to tiki culture considering that Hukilau 2012 gets underway in Ft. Lauderdale, FL today! Trade gossip about the event or start your adventure into the world of tiki pop culture by visiting the Official Page for Tiki Mug Collectors today!
The Hukilau began it's Polynesian festivities in 2002 under the steadfast planning and organization of founders "Tiki Kaliki" and "Swanky." The event is an annual affair that celebrates Hawaiian and Polynesian pop culture with a retro chic and a classic "Tiki Bar" flavor. Several legends of the pop culture phenomenon visit each year to bring out fruitful and cocktail-ready crowds. The Mai Kai restaurant has long been a supporter and staple venue for the event. Music, art, and good times abound each year and although it has evolved in scope the overall vibe has remained pretty much consistent. CLICK HERE to read more about it's history and how it's chic has swollen!
Each year the Hukilau event commemorates the merrymaking by commissioning artists to create limited edition tiki mugs. The years have brought some very inspired and innovative proofs that have passed the test of time, established their eminence in pop culture, and fired up collectors for a decade. Below is a chronological history of the limited edition cocktail vessels from the Trader Vic's 2002 event to this weekend's shindig. A special shoutout is in order for the collectors and creator of Ooga-Mooga (where most of the images you will see have been dug up). Ooga-Mooga is the paramount website for tiki mug collectors, traders, and aficionados. Visit the site, which is currently being revamped and updated over the next few months, and create an account to barter your wares or display your acquired art for all to see!
The 1st Annual Hukilau was hosted in Atlanta, GA as the mind-child of message board enthusiasts and featured Sven Kirsten (author of the acclaimed Book of Tiki), Saint Thomas and a plethora of hand made mugs, burlesque dancers, tiki carvers, tailgate parties, and music ranging from spy-themed surf rock to modern rockabilly. The first mug was designed by Squid and was released in an edition of 76 mugs. The tiki assumes a rare pose seen in tiki art. His knees are locked up and he appears to be rolling in jovial laughter. The textures assume the tiki is carved out of wood as you can plainly see his hands are tree limbs.
This year saw the relocation of the Hukilau to it's current home in Ft. Lauderdale, FL and was motivated by the historic relevance of the Mai Kai Restaurant. The big draws were the famous Polynesian dinner show at the Mai Kai and the debut appearance of Shag at the event! Crazy Al's carvings showed face as well. Squid and Shag designed the official mug for 2003 and it was manufactured by Tiki Farm. The edition of 300 marked the usual number of mugs released for years to come (with a few exceptions noted below). It came in a brown glaze and sported earrings and diamond pattern teeth.
There were actually two mugs released for the event this year. The second, also manufactured by Tiki Farm, came in a brown glaze and was affectionately named "Ku." He has been come to known in the collecting world as X-Eyes thanks to the ornamental bands across his face. I'm not sure, but I think this mug was released in conjunction with or after the event.
The event in 2004 was moved to September and featured an Italian Hula-Style rock band, King Kukulele, a dinner cruise, Maori carvings, and more Mai Kai fun. The featured mug was designed by Derek Yaniger in a limited run of 300. I feel bad for the smaller tiki considering I'm a short guy because on this mug he's being devoured by a larger one! This mug was released in two different glazes of purple and turquoise.
Hukilau 2005 showcased a rare appearance by Yma Sumac and her infamous 5-Octave voice. Swanky made his resignation final and the event coordinator, Tiki Kaliki, was aided by James Teitelbaum. Pushed back to October this year featured a first-ever car show as well! They changed things up with the art this year as well offering a classic scorpion bowl and shot glass created by Derek Yaniger. The shot glasses were released in an edition of 150 and the gold-rimmed bowls numbered 100. Tiki Farm continued the manufacturing this year. The shot glass has a wide mouth for easy imbibing and came in a variety of colors: Jungle Beat Yellow, Congo Green, and Botswana Brown!
The panache Scorpion Bowl was shaped with a tiki mask on each side and two elephant tusks crossing over the tiki.
The 5th anniversary of Hukilau again featured Sven Kirsten as well as Jeff "Beachbum" Berry, urban archaeologist and Florida tiki historian, Geoff Sundstrom, and Exotica disc jockey, Jeff Chenualt. The Mai Kai took a look at the past and Swanky showed an immense number of classic Mai Kai postcards that stole the show. The 2006 mug sanctioned was a Moai-shaped beast immortalizing the Mai Kai Restaurant's 50th anniversary. The top knot, black eyes, and red mouth on this creation were imagined by Barney West and Paul Nielsen (The "Pater Dominus" of Munktiki). Mugs were manufactured by new-comers on the Hukilau scene, Munktiki, once again in a 300 piece limited edition.
Beachbum Berry was back this year as the event shifted back to June with his new cocktail book, Sippin' Safari. Disney's influence on tiki culture was discussed and music again featured rockabilly and more jet-set Exotica. Munktiki again supplied the cocktail chalice releasing a limited edition of 300 brown mugs designed by Kevin Kidney on one side and the Mai Kai cannibals on the other sides! A fantastic design that is different in shape and scope of the average tiki mugs you see traded and purchased from the event!
Live mermaids, tiki bazaars, and more featured expositions and seminars were offered in the summer of 2008. There were scares that this would be the final event but support abounded and the Hukilau REBOUNDED! Paul Nielsen of Munktiki again designed the piece for happy hours in a set of 300 for the third year in a row. The style pays homage to the Marquesas Islands full body sculpture that stands outside of the Mai Kai. It's detail is phenomenal and the way the lines accent it give this mug a very Polynesian feel.
Tikiphiles united again celebrating the return of the Hukilau! A phenomenal year for music, the Los Straitjackets provided a rockin' ambiance that is rarely found at live music venues! The economy was taking a serious dive and revelers needed to keep funds in check but that didn't damper the festivities...in fact Congressional aggression was subdued by a fire-breathing mermaid! Kevin Kidney designed a Rarotongan mug manufactured by Munktiki in the normal limited edition release of 300. Munktiki would continue to hold reign of the Polynesian goblet market! This is one of my favorite glazes, a tan-speckled brown matte that hits home. The flat nose and monkey-like ears popping out are spectacularly crafted and make this a prime edition to collect.
The new decade saw another tropical jubilee to the delight of all pop culture enthusiasts beginning at the Bahia Cabana Poolside with tunes from King Kukulele and more! Shag was there to sign prints and photos. The event was jam-packed and well organized upping the standards for future events. A world premiere of the DVD Tiki was screened for the first time as well. Nielsen and Muntiki returned with a Papua New Guinea-styled tiki with tiny arms folded across his chest. Geometrically near perfect, the glaze was tinted with fabulous hues of green and blue.
Increased sponsorship and rising public awareness combined with a returning glamorization of tiki culture kicked off the 2011 event in June of last year. The 1st-Annual Penthouse Party was held, the history of sailors and the art of tattoo were highlighted, and more and more mermaids kept showing up! Kevin Kidney designed Munktiki's sixth consecutive Hukilau release with sweet treat! Released in a decreased run of 150, the mugs were marketed as "Tiki for 2" and came as a pair encouraging couples to share in the joyous custom of drinking out of tiki mugs! One was "vanilla" with the orange interior glaze and one was "mint chocolate" bringing back the brown matte with tan speckles and a green glazed inside. These delectable mugs were sweet...making one anxious to stick their tongue inside for whatever tasty treat lied within!
The 2012 event kicks off today promising to be fantastic! The commemorative mug has been featured on Hukilau's site for months. I just checked today and they are still available for purchase by non-attendees if you are interested. A new designer was brought in this year: Tiki Diablo (A.K.A. Danny Gillardo). In the words of Tiki Kiliki on the site, "Danny and I talked about basing on some of Milan Guanko designs and he knew that the elements of Guanko’s signature features was something that was important to me. He sent me a picture of a tiki from carver Richard Ellis for the Tradewinds Restaurant in Oxnard, CA. This Tiki had everything I wanted and more. Danny has done an amazing job!"
Please feel free to leave comments about your adventures at Hukilau 2012 here. Share your stories!! If you have a mug memory or other "Hukilau Sailor Stories" please start the conversation. I hope you have enjoyed this brief history of the Hukilau mug tradition and look forward to bring you more exciting stories from the world of Tiki Culture!