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[Photo: A man, several women, and a girl wearing lei and posed on a mat, ca. 1890Hawaiʻi. Photo by Hadley. SP 206852]

E aha ʻia ana ʻo Mauna Kea

Happy Mele Monday!

“When the lei of flowers withered and was discarded, the lei of poetry remained always as a reminder of a happy occasion.”- Mary Kawena Pukui, Directions in Pacific Literature.

Basking in the afterglow of May Day, we admire the beauty and adornment of a different kind of lei. Unlike natural flowers that wilt and fade with time, a lei of poetry is one that is able to last for generations. Today’s #melemonday features a “lei” song written by a woman named Liʻoe of Waimea, Hawaiʻi.

(Mele translation by Mary Kawena Pukui)

E aha ʻia ana ʻo Mauna Kea
What is doing with Mauna Kea

Kuahiwi alo pū me ke kēhau.
Mountain ever moist with dew.

Kāhea mai ʻo Halemaʻumaʻu,
Halemaʻumaʻu is calling,

ʻEnaʻena i ke ahi a ka wahine.
She who is ever burning with the woman’s fire.

He wahine kui pua lehua no ‘Ōlaʻa,
The woman (Pele) who strings the lehua of ʻŌlaʻa,

Ua wehi i ka hulu o ka mamo.
Is bedecked with the feathers of the mamo.

Kū aku au mahalo ʻo ka nani
I stand and admire the beautiful scene

Ka hāʻale a ka wai huʻi a ka manu,
The rippling of the cold water of the birds,

I ahona Puna i ka hone a ke kai,
Puna is made better by the murmur of the sea,

Ke ʻala o ka hīnano ʻo kaʻu aloha
And the fragrance of the hīnano that I so love

He aloha ia uka pūanuanu
Love to that cold upland

Haʻina mai ka puana
This ends my song

ʻO Ana ka wahine nona ka lei.
For Anna, whose “lei” song this is.

[Call Number: MS SC Roberts 2.5, pg. 36b-38a]

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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