On this day in 1883, the coronation ceremony of King Kalākaua and Queen Kapiʻolani took place on the grounds of ʻIolani Palace. In memory of that prestigious event, we share a portion of a chant that speaks about the planning and excitement of that momentous day.

“Much feathers were gathered for the preparation of the jubilee of King Kalakaua. New capes and kahilis were made for the occasion. A bed spread of red cockʻs feathers was made for the Kingʻs bed, and the Queen had a blue velvet holoku made, trimmed with bands of peacock feathers. The band that bordered the skirt was quiet wide.  At this time several hula chants were composed for the Queen mentioning some of the places where the feathers were obtained from, such as Waimānalo, Bird Island and Mololani. This series was called Mele Nuʻa Hulu or Chant of the feather mat. The nuʻa was often a pile of mats, a coarse one on the floor another and better one and still another finer and still and so on until there was a pile about a foot or more in height with the very best mat at the top. On this, royalty or favorite children reposed.”

(Excerpt and mele translation provided by Mary Kawena Pukui)

Aia i Moku Manu ko nuʻa hulu

At Moku Manu is your mat of feathers

ʻAʻahu nani nou e ka lani

To be made into a fine adornment for you, O Chiefess.

ʻO ka ulu wehiwehi a ka ʻahihi

Beautifully grows the ʻahihi

Popohe i ka hau kakahiaka

That bloom in the dewy morning

Noho mai e ka ʻohu liʻa nā pali

The mists snuggle down on the cold cliffs

Hone iho la ka ua noe liʻiliʻi

While the fine misty rain patters away

Hoʻi iho ka manaʻo lana mālie

The mind rests in tranquility,

Hoʻomāhie i ka pili o kea o

And reposes quietly near the coming of day.

Ua ao kāua e ke kolohala

Day has come for us, O pheasants.

Eia aʻe o ka ua Apuakea

Here comes the Apuakea rain.

Nehe ana ka huila o ke kaʻa ahi

The wheels of the train starts working

Hoʻolaʻi i ka pili o ka ʻāina

And continues over land.

Alia ʻoe lā e pulale mai

Do not get us excited,

Ka nalu kuili i Maluaka

O rolling surf of Maluaka.

Akaaka wale ʻoe e Makapuʻu

Makapuʻu comes to view

E hoʻōni nei ia Kawaihoa

As we journey toward Kawaihoa

I hoa kohu nou Daimana Hila

It is a fitting mate for Diamond Head

Hoʻoheno ka hele ʻana o ke kaona

Pleasant in the trip to town.

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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.


This project is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services NG-04-17-0218-17