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Ipu hokiokio

Object / Artefact › Pacific/Ethnology
  • Other titles
    • Ipu hokiokio (Hawaiian)
    • Gourd whistle (English)
  • Description
    Ipu hokiokio. Gourd whistle. A small sized pear shaped ipu (gourd) with a hollowed interior and a glossy light brown exterior. There are four circular perforations at the side of the surface, three for the placement of fingers and one for the nose. The ipu hokiokio was played in personal, intimate settings.
  • Place
  • Other Number
    1989.64, 53116
  • Accession number
  • Accession date
    17 April 1989
  • Collection area
  • Item count
  • Record richness
Ipū hokiokio, 1989.64, 53116, Photographed by Denise Baynham, digital, 20 Mar 2018, Cultural Permissions Apply
Ipū hokiokio, 1989.64, 53116, Photographed by Denise… … Read more


  • Credit
    Collection of Auckland Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira, 1989.64, 53116
  • Notes
    Ipū hokiokio is a small gourd whistle. They are carefully cultivated from a young age for their size. Their body has been hollowed and small holes have been drilled. A player would use their ihu (nose) to emit air through the top hole and portray a melody through the use of their fingers over the remaining holes. Ipū hokiokio has been described as an instrument used by lovers to convey romantic messages.

    Ipū is a term commonly associated with the gourd. It has been intentionally cultivated and hollowed. Ipū have a hollistic role within Hawaiian history and culture. Physically, the ipū can be used to carry mea’ai (food) and ka wai (water) or to store personal items. They can also be used to produce kani (sound) for mele (song) and hula (dance). Spiritually the ipū also have a significant metaphoric presence in procreation stories.

    There are two kinds of ipū: Ipū nui are a large variety of gourd and are associated with carrying food or water in contrast to Ipū awa awa which are the bitter variety of gourd. These are more suitable for holding goods or made for use as instruments in Hula. As one knowledge holder explained, “The Hawaiian people – we had 42 different uses for the ipū” – the most described across Polynesia.

    There are other qualities that extend the physical use of ipū into the realm of the cosmological and the spiritual. The late Indigenous Hawaiian scholar and historian, Samuel Kamakau (1815-1876) portrays the cosmological role ipū played in the creation story through an exert published in ‘Ke Au Okoa’,

    “It was thus that Papa gave birth: she gave birth to a gourd, a calabash with its cover, ‘he ‘umeke a he po‘i; Wākea threw the cover up, and it became the sky; then Wākea threw out the inner core, ‘ka haku oloko’, and it became the sun; as he threw it up, the seeds became stars. Wākea saw the whiteness of the soft core, the ‘pala haku’, of the gourd and threw that up, and it became the moon; the white layer, ‘papa ke‘oke‘o’, of the gourd Wākea scraped and threw up into space and it became clouds; the juice of the gourd he poured into the clouds, and it became rain. The calabash from the seperation of the gourd by Wākea became land and ocean.” (Oct. 14, 21, 1869)

    Papa is the earth mother, and Wākea is the sky father. The story of them birthing a gourd and using its contents to create the heavens and the earth illustrates the abundance that ipū have continued to offer today. Whether this is through domestic use, cultural performance or cosmological stories, the ipū has continued to carry Hawai’i’s rich history and culture.

    We would like to give thanks to the Hawaiian knowledge holders who generously shared their mana`o and sources surrounding the significance of the ipū.

    • M.Beckwith, ‘Hawaiian Mythology’. U H Press. 1970.
    • Jenkins, ‘The Hawaiian Calabash’.Editions limited. 1989.
    • T.R.Hiroa, ‘Arts and Crafts of Hawaii’. Bishop Museum Press. 1957.
    • S.M.Kamakau, ‘Tails and Traditions of the People of Old|Nā Mo‘olelo a ka Po‘e Kahiko’. Bishop Museum Press. 1991.
    • Personal comms. Kumu Auli`i Mitchell. 14.03.2018
    • Ipū hokiokio (Gourd whistle)
    • Ihu (nose)
    • Kani (sound)
    • Mele (song)
    • Hula (dance)
    • Mea‘ai (food)
    • Ka wai (water)
  • Subject category
  • Culture
  • Production
  • Signature/marks
    53117  (handwritten)
  • Consists of
    › gourd
  • Dimensions
    • 0 - Whole height x width x depth/length : 86mm
    • height : 81.5mm
    • diameter : 59mm
  • Record created
    29 July 1997

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