Maui Business

Tasini Carving Gallery Opens at The Shops at Wailea

January 20, 2017, 2:50 PM HST
* Updated January 23, 1:36 PM
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Taani Tasini Lavaka was born and raised in the Island Kingdom of Tonga where traditional carving with wood and bone is an important part of the culture.

Tasini Carving Gallery has its grand opening celebration on Friday, February 3 at 9:30 am.

Tasini Carving Gallery is located on the upper level at The Shops at Wailea just above the main fountain courtyard.

The opening exhibit will highlight large-scale hand sculpted wood carvings by Taani Tasini Lavaka.

The day’s festivities will also include prize drawings and special gifts for the first thirty visitors.

The gallery will also showcase smaller easy to carry pieces as well as decorative items carved from bone.


In honor of his first gallery opening and the popular migration of humpback whales to Maui, Taani will unveil a large-scale humpback whale carved from a single piece of monkey pod. The humpback whale measures seven and a half feet long and three feet in circumference.


“We are excited to welcome Tasini Carving Gallery to The Shops at Wailea,” said Brian Yano, General Manager for The Shops at Wailea. “Some of the immense wood sculptures take over 100 hours to complete. It is truly a unique store and there is nothing like it in Wailea.”

Taani Tasini Lavaka was born and raised in the Island Kingdom of Tonga where traditional carving with wood and bone is an important part of the culture. One of his cherished childhood memories is fishing with his father, Tasini and grandfather, Lavaka in the new canoe they had carved.

His father and grandfather carved functional pieces like canoes for fishing, tools, and weapons for farming and hunting. The important responsibility of fishing, hunting, and farming went to the older brothers. Taani is the eighth son out of ten boys. By default, the unpopular and dreaded duty of helping the grandfather with the carving fell to him and his two younger brothers.


At the age of six, Taani etched his first carving on his left arm. He etched the sun, the moon and a star because they were the first English words he learned. These images are still visible on his arm today. He sold his first carving for five dollars when he was fifteen years old.

He was filled with pride and excitement because although he spent two days carving this piece, the five dollars bought four loaves of bread and four pounds of lamb flaps, feeding his entire family for a day.

His first trip out of Tonga was to the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oʻahu where he had provided carvings for the center from 1984 to 1990. He moved his family from Tonga to Maui in 1991.

He has sold and shipped his artwork all over the world for decades. His work has been acquired by dignitaries and celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, President George Bush Senior, Michael Jordan and many more.

Taani has passed the traditional art of wood and bone carving to his sons. Their traditional handicrafts are now supporting the next the next generation of the Lavaka families. His son Hailame produces and sells carvings in Kona with his family. His son Etimoni lives on Maui with his family and sells his art in Lahaina. His son Leo lives with Taani and helps his father with carving daily.

“I have dreamt of opening a Gallery in Maui for many years. The opening of Tasini Carving Gallery at The Shops at Wailea is a pivotal and momentous occasion for my family and me,” says Taani Tasini Lavaka.

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