condensed discuss document expanded export feedback print share remove reset document_white enquire_white export_white report_white
discuss document export feedback print share gallery-landscape

Ipū heke hula

Object / Artefact › Pacific/Ethnology
  • Other titles
    • gourd drum
    • ipu hula (Hawaiian)
    • Gourd drum (English)
  • Description
    Ipū heke hula. Gourd drum. This is the ki (body) that forms the two piece gourd drum, an instrument used in Hula. The ki is a large hollow gourd with a circular opening cut at the top. The interior has been dried into a matte texture that is reddish brown. Its exterior is similar in colour but is smooth in texture. The opening is decorated with a black border called pāwehe. Pāwehe is a technique that originated from the island of Ni'ihau in Hawai'i. Pāwehe is applied when the gourd is still green by cutting into the skin. The gourd would then be filled with dye to seep through the exposed areas. The opening features perforations a heke (head - also made from a gourd) would have been internally lashed to the ki (body). Several cracks show pāhonohono (repairs) using humu (stitching). A woven sennit cord is also part of this acquisition.
  • Place
  • Other Number
    4041, 11395
  • Accession date
  • Collection area
  • Item count
  • Record richness
Hula ipū heke, 11395, 4041, Photographed by Denise Baynham, digital, 30 Apr 2018, Cultural Permissions Apply
Hula ipū heke, 11395, 4041, Photographed by Denise Baynham,… … Read more


  • Credit
    Collection of Auckland Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira, 11395, 4041
  • Notes
    The Hula ipū heke, is a combination of two gourds. One being the heke (head) and the other on a larger scale called the ki (body). Both the heke and the ki would be lashed internally with ‘aha (coconut sennit) cord and ulu (breadfruit) sap to hold them together. Used like a drum, the kani (sound) produced from rhythmic beating assists in the mele (song) and movement of hula (dance). This particular ipū heke features pāhonohono (repairs) and pāwehe (motifs). When the gourd is still green, pāwehe can be applied by cutting away the surface of the skin to create a design. Once the flesh from inside has been removed, dye can be poured into the gourd seeping through the exposed areas creating pāwehe.

    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 for mele and hula. 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 ‘Ka 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

    • Hula Ipū heke (Gourd implement)
    • Heke (head)
    • Ki (body)
    • ‘Aha (coconut sennit)
    • Ulu (breadfruit)
    • Kani (sound)
    • Mele (song)
    • Hula (dance)
    • Pāhonohono (repairs)
    • Pāwehe (motifs/designs)
    • Mea‘ai (food)
    • Ka wai (water)
  • Subject category
  • Culture
  • Production
  • Consists of
  • Dimensions
    length : 340mm
  • Record created
    18 March 2003

Object tags

Visitor tags

  • Contribute more detail to this record by adding your own names, classifications or categories via a tag. Tags also make this record more findable on search.

Related items

Other items

    The development of the Auckland War Memorial Museum online collection is an ongoing process; updates, new images and records are added weekly. In some cases, records have yet to be confirmed by Museum staff, and there could be mistakes or omissions in the information provided.