The Coconut Créche - Hawaii's Nativity Scene

Posted on November 06, 2014 by Scott Nagata

One of the most beloved and eye catching items we have in our store is the Hawaiian Coconut Créche. This unique handmade nativity scene immediately says "Hawaiian" to anyone who has stepped foot in Polynesia. Standing about an average of about 4 1/2 - 5 inches tall, the crèche is actually a coconut that has been cut into, emptied of the meat and water, dried and shaped to look like a stable... made from a coconut. 

Inside of the crèche we have the standard Jesus in a crib, Mary, Joseph, an angel, stable animals and to add a little more "Hawaiian" to it, we add a coconut tree. All the figures are made of wood and complement nicely the wooden feel of the coconut manger. 

Every year we get the créche with the figures separately. We glue the figures onto the base, let dry and pack away. We send most out during the Christmas season but still try to offer throughout the year.

We have keiki (kids) now and one thing we are always on the lookout for are crafts or gifts that they can make themselves for their grandparents, family and friends. Then it hit me. Why not have them make their own coconut crèche for their Tutu (Grandma)? And why not offer that to everyone as well? So, for the first time this year, we are offering a "make-your-own" créche. It's a great hands-on project that is easy, fun and a great reminder of the Christmas season and the Aloha of the Hawaiian islands. 

Everything is included (minus the scissors needed to open the glue). We've switched to wood glue as it dries clear and is made for... wood. It's easy and best of all there is no right or wrong in how you arrange your figures. Put the tree in the back. Move the angel in the middle. It's up to you where you want to place them. But if you can't decide, we've included suggested placement directions as well. However you arrange them, the person receiving the crèche is sure to love it. Especially because it is something you or your keiki made especially for them. Enjoy. Mele Kalikimaka!

PS. We'd love to see how they turn out for your loved ones. Post your pictures on our Facebook page or tag #blackpearldesigns on Instagram.

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How to Tie a Pareu - Part I

Posted on November 03, 2014 by Scott Nagata

How do you tie a pareu? Just ask any islander and you'll get at least a dozen different answers. Pareus can be worn in a number of ways, some of the more popular wraps are illustrated here. You can be creative or practical in your ties, but all seem to have one thing in common - a sense of comfort and personal style. We've brought together a few of our most popular ties that we'd like to share with you. 

The word pareu (a modern popular variation is the word "pareo") has been used generically to mean any wrap which holds true for other similar descriptive words such as sarong (India), lava lava (Samoa), kikepa (Hawaii), sulu (Fiji), wraparound (US). Pareus did not evolve from a sarong or vice versa. Find out more about the history of the pareo and about our Tahitian pareos.


The classic tie that's so easy, comfortable and practical. Wrap the pareo around your back and take the two ends and bring them around to your front. Hold one end over your shoulder and bring the other end around to meet it. Tie both ends together over your shoulder. Add a tiare in your hair and you're one step closer to paradise.



The Society Islands are the epitome of paradise. With everything perfect, a Tahitian pareo tyed in the Maita'i (good) style adds more than a fun twist. To start off, hold the pareo lengthwise and wrap around to your front. While holding the top corners, pull across your front. Pull and twist the ends to make a secure half knot. Open up one of the loose ends, cover breast and tuck in back. Cover the other breast with the remaining loose end. Tuck in back, or if the ends are long enough, tie both ends in back. The finished Maita'i style is a great look that gives a faux bandeau look with a twist to island fashion. To add a finishing touch, add our Maita'i Black Pearl Shell Earrings for that fun island fashion statement.



Samoa isn't the only island with "happy" people. The Oaoa (happy) style has brought smiles to more than just those who wear it. It's a simple classic style that is both comfortable and practical. Start by wrapping the pareo around your body. Bring the two ends to the front and pull across your front. Holding the two ends, tie together behind your neck to secure. Straighten out the front and adjust neckline as desired. This is a perfect beach wrap. Whether on the way to the beach, or playing in the surf, this is the perfect light and airy pareo tie.



Start by wrapping the pareo lengthwise around your body. Hold the two top ends, pulling across your body and twist in front. Still holding the ends, twist a second time to secure in place. Twist the ends to make a coil. Bring both ends up and around your neck. Secure and tie both ends together. Adjust and tuck in front. The Huahine style is fast and easy to create. With finishing touches of brushing out your hair and a touch of Tahitian monoi oil to lightly scent, you're all set for a fun-filled day at the beach.

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Pareo History & Origins

Posted on October 22, 2013 by Scott Nagata

Little is documented on the history of the pareo. However much can be compared to the ancient art of tapa making. Clothing of Tahiti (French Polynesia) traditionally was made of ti leaf, banana leaf, lauhala leaf, coconut fiber, inner wild hibiscus bark, ulu (breadfruit) bark, and inner paper mulberry bark. Ulu bark and paper mulberry bark were used to make a fabric called tapa. The paper mulberry was the most popular bark used for this purpose.

The word pareo has been used generically to mean any wrap which holds true for other similar words such as sarong. A pareo did not evolve from a sarong or vice versa. Each of these cultures has unique designs. A wrap with Indonesian designs is a sarong and a wrap with Tahitian designs is a pareo.

Traditional Tahitian Bark-cloth (Tapa) Robe. Paris, Musée de l'Homme

It's as easy as a point and click. Today, a pareo can arrive on your doorstep in a very short amount of time. You can even get instructions on how to make and how to tie a pareo readily available to anyone with a computer and access to the internet. It's a contrast in study to the ancient Tahitians and their pareos and dress.

Unlike other populated areas of the world, the islands in the South Pacific did not use plants to make woven fabric. Although cotton and other fabric making plants were available, the islanders did not acquaint themselves with traditional textiles and woven materials common in western society. Instead they made clothing and light garments from tapa (beaten bark) or woven leaves, most notably the lauhala (pandanus).

The most common dress for the men was the maro, a simple loin-cloth. Similar to the malo of Hawaii, this traditional dress consisted of a single narrow piece of tapa wrapped around the waist and between the legs. It was a practical dress for the hot and humid climate that Tahiti experiences almost all year round.

Women of ancient Tahiti wore a pa-u or pareu (pareo), a garment tied around the waist that usually draped to the knees. Prior to contact with western ideals, women often went topless during the regular course of the day. As western influence entered the Tahitian society as well as other South Pacific islands, the women gradually adapted the pareo to mimic western women's wear. Most visible was a simple tie over one shoulder and leaving the opposite shoulder bare. It was a practical adjustment that gave modesty to their island wear.

In cooler weather and during celebrations or festivals, men and women both added a tiputa (tapa poncho). With a vertical slit to allow for the head through, and open sleeves and sides, it allowed for a limited amount of protection. At times it was decorated with printed designs such as leaves, ferns, or depictions close to the individual.

Clothing in general was of a loose nature other than the everyday maro. As tapa making is a labor intensive process, tailoring to the individual for such a short time in which the tapa was useful, was not practical. The tapa cloth layers were called 'ahu (draped tapa).

Everyday common clothes were usually brown due to the natural coloring produced from the bark of the banyan and the paper mulberry trees. For special occasions, times of celebration, and for those of high rank or importance, a beautiful white tapa made from the bark of the ulu (breadfruit) tree was worn. It was called the ahupuupuu. Royalty also wore tiputa embellished with red and black feathers, robes of tapa and pareu made of fine mats.

It's important to know that the change from tapa to conventional western style cloth was a gradual process. The initial introductions to the cloth were by western explorers. They would come in military attire fashioned in cloth textiles. As a gift or trade with the arii (royalty) they would sometimes offer pieces of clothing that were admired by the islanders. It was a symbol of status to those ancient islanders. Gradually as more and more ships arrived, more clothing was introduced and more people were able to obtain the cloth.

European explorers of the 1700s introduced textiles and the advent of industrial advances. But it was when the Christian missionaries arrived a short time later that cotton clothing replaced the bark wraps. The missionaries desired to "civilize" the Tahitians and taught them that there should be a degree of modesty. They introduced European clothing and textiles, higher in quality and more durable than the traditional tapa cloth.

With trade routes established, supply lines for breadfruit, vanilla, and coconuts were not the only things Westerners saw potential for. It was not until merchant ships, with purposes to trade and make a profit in a new market, did the clothing of Westerners take a more dominant role. Not only was the westerners cloth easier to work with, but it also was more durable, functional, long-lasting, stronger and capable of absorbing a variety of dyes to ornament.

Eventually the use of tapa as clothing became obsolete. Western style of dress was modified and adapted to suit island lifestyles. In the 20th century, the dawning of the modern day pareo began. It was after a wartime shortage of cotton from England during World War II, that the value of the modern pareo become apparent. Pareos became scarce. But with the war over, production began again.

Tahitian designs on the fabric were either freehand drawings resembling designs in wood carving and tattoos or prints using fern leaves and flowers. Modern Tahitian designs follow one of two methods: highly stylized tattoo, flower and fern patterns screened onto fabric through manufacturing or hand-dyed with the use of fern or flower stencils. The fabric is generally 2 yards in length and can be made out of cotton, rayon or silk. Many designs feature bright colors and reflect the beautiful colors seen in the islands.

The Art of Tahiti Barrow, Tui Terrence 1979 (out of print)
Islands of Tahiti Christian, Erwin and Raymond Bagnis 1983 (out of print)
Tahiti Stanley, David 2003
Pareo Paradise Wilson, Patricia & Christian 1984
Arii Creations Tahiti 1985
Pareo Hermes Paris 1988
No Pareu! Pacific Islands Monthly Feb 17, 1944 v 14 n7 pg 28
Ancient Tahiti Henry, Teuira 1971
The Tahiti Handbook Saquet, Jean Louis 1998
Oceanic Art Kaeppler, Kaufmann, Newton 1997

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The Maori Haka

Posted on October 21, 2013 by Scott Nagata

Kia Ora. The Maori of Aotearoa... Land of the Long White Cloud, have a rich cultural tradition reaching back to ancient origins.

An excellent source of information on the Maori haka can be found at the Tourism New Zealand website. An indepth look at the origins and history of not only the haka, but of the cultural importance of the traditions associated with the haka that have been handed down from generation to generation.

The most recognized haka is Kamate. Practically every Maori warrior learns this classic. It's simplicity makes it the ideal haka to teach. It's power, or mana, can be felt not only by the performers, but also those who observe and take in the experience. Writing about it, or even taking pictures and video just doesn't do it justice. No weapons are needed as the body and intimidating stances and gestures make for a most formidable weapon itself.

A Ka Mate! Ka mate!
'Tis death! 'Tis death!

Ka ora! Ka ora!

'Tis life! 'Tis life!

Ka mate! Ka mate!
'Tis death! 'Tis death!

Ka ora! Ka ora!
'Tis life! 'Tis life!

Tenei te tangata pohuruhuru
Behold! There stands the hairy man
Nana nei i tiki mai whakawhiti te ra!
Who will cause the sun to shine!

A hupane! A kaupane!
One step upwards, another step upwards!
A hupane! A kaupane!
One step upwards, another step upwards!
Whiti te ra!
The sun shines!

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Tahitian Dance

Posted on October 17, 2013 by Scott Nagata

Mention Tahiti and you'll get a myriad of responses. It's the birth place of one of the most vibrant and entertaining ethnic dances in the world - the tamure. Tahiti e Imua.

First-hand experiencing of the enchanting beauty and charm of ancient Tahitian dances and cultural presentations is unforgettable. The pulsing drums, the blur of the hip shaking, intoxicating tropical flower scents, and the unmistakable energetic performance that is Tahitian dance are brought together here. Feel free to explore our growing collection of information and sources of the dance and culture of Tahiti.


Tahitian Dance Groups Directory and Tahitian Dance Events Calendar.

More and more of the Tahitian dance groups are coming online. This makes it easier to get in touch, organize and coordinate to give you the information you are looking for. Visit your local Tahitian dance group or look into finding a group in your area.

Dances and Songs of Tahiti

The true name of the Tahitian dance is "'Ori Tahiti". The first names of all the kind of dances have completely disappeared. Today, only the word "Hura" is still used.

The most spectacular of all Polynesian dances, performed by a group of male dancers (‘Ote’a Tane) or a group of female dancers (‘Ote’a Vahine), or sometimes male and female dancers (‘Ote’a Amui). It is inspired by old legends; the themes consist of a certain number of variations, the length of each one being determined by the beats of the To’ere. Sometimes the theme of the ‘ote’a is a contemporary one (celebration of a wedding, welcome of an important visitor, marking of an important event, etc.). The ‘Ote’a are usually performed in traditional costumes (A’ahu More).

For the male dancers

  • The basic step is the pa'oti.
  • Knees open and close as scissors. Knees are slightly bent.
  • Feet stay flat on ground with heels slightly raised. Feet must not been spread - apart.
  • The torso must remain straight (vertical).
  • Two styles of the pa'oti include Pa'oti to'ere (fast movement) and pa'oti pahu - (slow movement, with heels flat.
  • The" tu'e " (kick forward accompanied with move of fists)
  • The " horo " (running move) which can be use for the entrance and for the changes of the dancers places.
  • The " otaha ", combination of poses and skipping used especially to forward.

For the female dancers

  • Keep the knees slightly bent.
  • Keep the bust and shoulders motionless.
  • Keep your arms out stretched at shoulder level with only a slight bend to avoid a rigid look and present a more feminine appearance. Avoid dropping the elbows.
  • Feet are to be flat on the ground. Heels joined and the toes slightly separated to form a "V" shape.

definition: 'apa (kiss) rima (hands), the kiss of hands.
The Aparima tells a story set to music and mimed by gracious gestures of the hands. The Aparima is a group dance inspired by scenes of the daily life; a boy meeting a girl, a vahine combing her hair, paddlers in an outrigger canoe, description of a beautiful site, etc.

The Hivinau is danced divertimento which ends most of the celebrations; it is lead by a dancer famous for his impromptus talents. TheTahitian word comes from the English language " heave now ", used by the sailors when they put themselves in a circle on the bridge of their boat to make their plans.

This dance is generally inspired by scenes of fishing or hunting; it is performed by a limited number of dancers.

It is rythmed by the palms of the hands beating the ground and performed by a male and a female dancer. It has a wild and erotic flavor.

‘Ori Tahiti
The ‘Ori Tahiti, better known as the Tamure.

The Ute are impromptu familiar and satirical songs and are among the most popular Tahitian songs. an improvisor (Taata Pehepehe or Faateni) is accompanied by a small number of other singers.

Himene Tarava
These are choirs performed by an important number of singers (50 to 150) divided into 3 groups, each one being directed by a soloist.

Courtesy Tahiti Tourism Board

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