This is a mele hoʻopuka. The dancers danced out before the spectators to this mele but not until the hoʻopaʻa or chanter came to the line “Puka hele i kai i Kulilikaua”. On the word hele or go, they danced out to stand before the people. To bathe in the sea anytime is called ʻauʻau kai. When done ceremonially, with prayers for purification, it is called kapu kai.
(Excerpt and mele translation provided by Mary Kawena Pukui)
Hoʻoputa i kai i ka lā Unulau,
Let the sun rise below at Unulau,
Hati kākala mai ana ka makani
The winds begin to break and bluster
Puta ka hala, ka lehua o Panaʻewa
The hala and lehua of Panaʻewa appear
Puta hele i tai i Kulilikaua
They appear and go down to Kulilikaua,
Ka papa lohi a’o ʻĀpua.
To the shiny lava beds of ʻĀpua.
E lohi mai ana e Maukele
Shiny is Maukele
Ta papa o Papakanene
[and] the flats of Papakanene.
E puta auaneʻi ka makani
The wind is about to come,
Puka ka lā me ka makani
The sun, as well as the wind.
He ʻĀpaʻapaʻa ke kīpū makani o uka,
The ʻĀpaʻapaʻa is the constant wind of the upland
ʻEleʻele koʻa ka makani o ka Lua
Dark and dense is the wind of the pit,
Ka māhu a i luna o Wahinekapu
With the steam up on Wahinekapu
Kapu kai a nā Hoaliʻi,
The royal companions are having their ceremonial bath,
E ō ia e, ua kapu kai ke kuahu e.
O answer us, the altar is purified.
Another version begins the same but ends-
E puka auaneʻi kā ka makani
The wind is about to come,
Uli, eleʻele koʻa ka makani o ka Lua,
Hazy and dark is the wind of the Pit
I ka naʻi i luna o Wahinekapu,
As it strives upward toward Wahinekapu.
E kapu ē
It is a kapu period
Kapu kai aku la ʻoe e Kamohoaliʻi,
For you have had your ceremonial bath O Kamohoaliʻi,
Kapu kai aku la Pele ke akua wahine,
Pele the goddess has also had her ceremonial bath.
E ala, e ala, e ala ke aloha.
Awake, awake, awake, O beloved ones.
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