I recently completed my second ipu heke for hula. I asked my hula sister Edie to help me name her. In case you’re wondering, some hawaiian instruments are male and some are female. The ipu heke is female. I sent her a photo and explained I had burned the images of two taro leaves on the outside of my ipu. Both the top and bottom of the ipu heke were grown in my garden . If you look back in my February blog the largest gourd in the picture is the bottom of this ipu heke. A few days later she sent me the following email:
The name of your ipu came last night and before you learn it, you have some homework to prepare for it. Because there is kalo on the ipu, you will need to read about Haloa:
“Root of Life” – Taro (Kalo) – Legend of Native Hawaiian Creation
Updated about 4 years ago
Taro plant (Kalo in Hawaiian) is linked to one of many mythological versions on creation of Native Hawaiian ancestry. Legend joins the two siblings – Earth Mother (Papahanaumoku) and Sky Father (Wakea) – together they create the Islands of Hawaii and a beautful woman The Stars (Ho’ohokuokalanii – for “The Heavenly One Who Made of Stars”). Waikea desired his “daughter’s beauty” and came together with her to create a child who came stillborn and alu’alu (deformed). Their son was named Haloanaka (Haloa – for “Long Breath” or “Eternal Life”) and buried in earth’s soil. After Ho’ohokuokalani’s grieving watery tears over her son’s grave, out sprang a fragile, strong and healthy plant—Kalo (Taro): “The stems were slender and when the wind blew they swayed and bent as though paying homage, their heart shaped leaves shivering gracefully as in hula. And in the center of each leaf water gathered, like a mother’s teardrop.” The second child born of this union was named Haloa, after his older brother. The younger Haloa, first-born man, was to respect and to look after his older brother for ever more. In return, the elder Haloa, the root of life, would always sustain and nourish him and his descendants. And so the Kalo (Taro) of the earth became the sacred crop of Native Hawaiian people and principal food for the generations to come. Still today, in remote valleys, such as Waipio on the Big Island of Hawaii, taro is a way of life. Knowledge of its cultivation and its qualities has been passed down from generation to generation. Taro farmers often spend the day in knee high water, planting new keikis, harvesting mature corms, and weeding the abundant tropical growth around the invaluable food source. Taro in Hawaii is mostly used for poi (pounded taro), table taro, taro chips, and luau (green taro tops).
After I read the story I called her. She had named my ipu heke Mele Haloa, song of Haloa. I’ve come to really love Hula and my hula sisters and I’m very blessed that she named my ipu heke.