Contributor- Mrs. A.P Taylor [Emma Ahuena Taylor], Honolulu, Oʻahu.

“It was the custom for the bones of high chiefs to be enclosed in baskets woven of cords, with an upper compartment for the skull and a lower one for the rest of the skeleton. This was called ‘kū i ke kāʻai’, or Standing in the kāʻai.”

(Excerpt and mele translation provided by Mary Kawena Pukui)

ʻO Keawe ke aliʻi,

Keawe was the chief,

ʻO Manawainapoʻo, ka ʻaha,

Manawainapoʻo was the (name of his sacred) cord,

ʻO Kahuluiaiku kāholo ka ʻaha maloko,

Kahuluiaiku was the cord inside,

ʻO Kaolemaiheʻeluʻukia,


ʻO Luʻukia ka ʻaha lanalana,

Luʻukia was the cord for the lashing,

ʻO Kekapo ma waho,

Kekapo was the cord outside,

Paʻa ʻia Keawe a kū i kāʻai.

And bound was Keawe in the kāʻai.

[MS SC Roberts 5.1, pg. 21, 83]

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