An ipu heke is a Hawiian percussion instrument used to provide a beat for hula dancing and chanting. Made from two gourds, they are cut and joined at the neck. The instrument is played by holding the ipu at its neck and striking the bottom right corner with the base of your right thumb, or tapping your fingertips on the edges of the gourd.
The people of Ni'ihau developed this technique around 1600 AD. At the end of the nineteenth century, with the demise of artisans, the method was lost. In 1990 Doctor Bruce Ka'imiloa Chrisman rediscovered the technique and in 1997 passed his knowledge on to Michael Harburg, the creator of this piece.
Briefly, the skin of a mature gourd is peeled away from the shell, creating the design. The gourd is filled with dye to rest for three weeks. Then it is cleaned and dried, and finished with a light oil or shellac to preserve the art work. The Umeke comes with a 6 page booklet describing the method in detail.
Mr. Harburg now lives in Kauai, but spent years on the Big Island developing his technique. In 2003 he opened the Ipu Gallery. He has taught at the Bishop Museum in Oahu, which displays some of his authentic pieces.
This unusually large gourd is decorated with a traditional Hawaiian motif. In your home, it will make a distinct impression and demonstrate your reverence for Na Mea Hawaii (Things Hawaiian).
23"H x 9"Diameter