[Photo: Lei pūpū kāhuli, lei made from endemic Hawaiian land snail shells (Achatinella sp.) called kāhuli, strung onto fine cordage. This lei belonged to Princess Liliʻuokalani. Bishop Museum Ethnology Collections object number 1921.014.145. Q_209576]
[Photo: Detail of lei pūpū kāhuli, lei made from endemic Hawaiian land snail shells (Achatinella sp.) called kāhuli, strung onto fine cordage. This lei belonged to Princess Liliʻuokalani. Bishop Museum Ethnology Collections object number 1921.014.145. Photo by Jesse W. Stephen copyright 2017 Bishop Museum. Q_209577.]

Happy Mele Monday!

Today’s mele was contributed to the collection by David M. Keliʻikoa of Waiʻōhinu, Kaʻū. This mele hoʻāeʻae mentions the kāhuli, the famous singing land shells. Often used as a metaphor to describe someone with a euphonious singing voice, kāhuli are also used in poetry denoting love and romance.

(Mele translation by Mary Kawena Pukui)

Aloha ka uka ʻōpua holu i ka makani,
Loved is that upland where the rain clouds are driven by the wind,

He home aloha ʻia na ke ʻala me ke onaona.
The beloved home of fragrance and sweetness.

He ipo aloha naʻu ka nani o Kūkiʻi e waiho nei,
Like a sweetheart to me is the beauty of Kūkiʻi, lying here,

I lohia ʻia mai e nā lehua o Hopoe ʻau i ke kai.
Adorned by the lehua of Hōpoe, that reaches out toward the sea.

Ke kaʻikaʻi kū ʻia maila e Kalanamahiki,
Kalanamahiki seems to be carried to and fro,

Hikiwawe ka hana a ka ua i ka nahele,
The rain comes pattering down in haste,

Ke hoʻowali ʻia maila e ka ua nāulu,
Bestirred by the rain clouds above,

Kū helahela ke kula o Kamāʻoa, nopu i ka lā,
Proudly stands the plain of Kamāʻoa, warmed by the sun,

Kukuni wela i ka ʻili o ka malihini.
That sun that burns the skin of visitors.

Ia kiʻowai pauma hoʻonanea a ka makemake,
The water of the pool may be pumped up as leisurely as one desires,

Ke hoʻokuene ʻia maila e ka Waikōloa;
The action directed by the Waikōloa breeze;

I ke kaomi mālie ʻia e ka Puʻulena,
That is being pressed against by the Puʻulena breeze,

Ke kaiue nome ʻia maila e ka Inuwai,
Tossing and whirling goes the Inuwai breeze,

Haʻu ʻopi ka waha o Hāʻena i ka makani,
Causing Hāʻena to open its mouth to the wind,

Niniau ʻeha i ka pua o ka makemake,
Aching and hurt by the flower of oneʻs desire,

He lei hoʻohihi naʻu ke aloha ke hiki mai,
Love, when it comes, is like a lei much admired to me,

Me he wai māpuna ala i ke alo o nā kuahiwi,
Like a spring of water before the face of the mountain,

I au hunehune i ke alo o nā pali hekiu.
That sends a fine stream trickling down the sheer cliff.

He wahi aloha no kuʻu ipo i ka leo o ke kāhuli.
This is my song of love for my sweetheart, amid the trilling of the land shells.

[Call Number: MS SC Roberts 5.5, pg. 6, 31-33]

Mele are an invaluable primary resource for Hawaiian scholarship and cultural connection. The Welo Hou: Building Connections to the Roberts Mele Collection project, funded in part by the Institute for Museum and Library Services, will improve the digitization, indexing, and accessibility of a unique and treasured collection of mele dating from pre-Western contact to the early 1900s. This pilot project will serve as a model for improved access to and increased engagement with the Bishop Museum Library & Archives’ other mele collections.

Welo Hou, or to unfurl once again, aims to provide more opportunities for researchers of all levels of Hawaiian language and cultural fluency to access the Roberts Collection with ease, and honors the connections between Hawaiian voices of the past and our community of the present.

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