[Photo: School house; Waiʻanae, Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi.; ca. 1880s. SP_96549.]

Kuʻu Makua i ka Hale Uluna Kanaka

Today we feature a composition written by Queen Kaʻahumanu. In this mele kanikau, Queen Kaʻahumanu expresses feelings of deep grief as she mourns the passing of her mother, Namahana.

(Mele translation by Mary Kawena Pukui)

Kuʻu makua i ka hale uluna kanaka … My parent, from this house where the head was pillowed

Hale malumalu komo poʻo o māua … The house that sheltered our heads

E hoʻomaha ai i ka wela ke hele … The house in which we rested after traveling in the heat

Hele kuʻu makuahine me ke aloha … My mother departs with love

ʻAuana wale iho kā au i kuahea … I wander about the dreary mountainside

ʻOpe o ka wahine ʻai makani … The woman opens her mouth in grief toward the wind

ʻAi makani Malanai ē- … Wailing her woe to the Malanai wind

A ʻai-ē-ʻai-ē … Grieving , grieving

A ʻai-ē-ana i ke aloha a ka makua … Grieving, for the love of the parent

Kenakena i ke aloha o nā keiki … Satiated with grief are the children

ʻO kuʻu kaikaina muli pōkiʻi … My youngest sister,

ʻO pōkiʻi kauna, ʻo kuʻu kaikaina ē … My younger sister and she

[MS SC Roberts 5.1 , Pg. 6, 48-49]

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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