Happy Mele Monday!

“Never before had anyone in Hawaiʻi voted for a king. For many people it would be the very first time in their lives even to vote. On every island great numbers of people came to the polls. Eagerly they cast their ballots. They were thankful for this privilege to select their own ruler.” (Peter Galuteria. “Lunalilo.” Kamehameha Schools/Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate, 1993)

The unprecedented election of William Charles Lunalilo marked a historical time in Hawaiʻi’s political realm. Lunalilo valued democracy and moved to enact changes that would give more power to the people. He cared sincerely for his constituents and considered their well-being over personal gain. His legacy includes the establishment of Lunalilo Home for sick and destitute people of Hawaiian ancestry, giving preference to the elderly.

This mele was composed when Lunalilo became king and expresses the joy and excitement felt by all throughout the islands.

(Mele translation by Mary Kawena Pukui)

Kū ka ʻoliʻoli i nā moku
There is a rejoicing throughout the islands

Ua kau aʻe nei Lunalilo.
Lunalilo is now the King.

ʻO ka mea i manaʻo nui ʻia
He is the one most thought of

E nā lehulehu a pau
By every person

Mai Hawaiʻi a Kauaʻi,
From Hawaiʻi to Kauaʻi,

Niʻihau a ka mole ʻo Lehua
On to Niʻihau and the islet Lehua

Ua kau aʻe nei ke kini
He is raised to kingship

Aia ma ka lani kiʻekiʻe.
And is remembered among the highest.

ʻO ka wehiwehi o nā kapu
Surrounded with profound kapu

Mai oʻu kūpuna loa mai
Inherited from his remote ancestors

Ua kau i ka noho kalaunu,
He is placed on the throne,

ʻO Kalani Lunalilo he inoa.
The heavenly one, Lunalilo is his name.

[Call Number: MS SC Roberts 5.3 , pg. 53]

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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