In New Zealand, the Māori people have upheld a long tradition of creating wooden or stone carvings of deities, ancestors, or sacred animals. These carvings are known as tiki, which is also the name of the first man in Māori mythology. These carvings were often placed in and around sacred areas that corresponded to what the characters represented. The tradition of tiki would spread throughout the Pacific region over time, and has since become a somewhat wrongly-attributed staple of Hawaiian culture in Western civilization.
All this to say—a tiki-carving grass hut might seem pretty out of place in Delaware.
But while driving towards Rehoboth Beach, visitors might be surprised to see swaying palm trees and grass canopies alongside brightly-colored tiki idols and statues. This is Tiki Murph, a gallery and workshop run by local artisans who carve, paint, and stain the statues on-site! If you ask what a tiki-making crew is doing in Delaware of all places, you’ll get a pretty simple response: “Florida is too hot!”
Visitors are encouraged to walk around the site and look at the statues in various forms of completion. At all times, you’ll be able to watch a sculptor carving a large stump of white pine into a character, but you can also find artists painting their creations. If you’re lucky, you may even have the chance to see a craftsman using a blowtorch to scorch the soft wood to give the figure a distinctively marbled look.
Visitors can also shop the wide selection of tiki idols and even commission custom statues if they feel so inclined. The staff is always working on traditional tiki art, but also has seasonal items such as carved Christmas trees and autumn pumpkins. It might be jarring at first to see such a tropical abode on the side of Bay Road, but Tiki Murph’s offers passerby a unique experience to watch fine craftspeople carve beautiful statues, something not a lot of other places in Delaware can say they offer. Just don’t tell them it’s about 10,000 miles to the closest Polynesian Island.
Know Before You Go
There is no fee for walking around and watching the idol carving. The artists are more than happy to discuss their process with curious visitors!