Originally found in the story of Hiʻiaka, today’s mele is one that was used in the old hula schools when the password to enter the learning space was ignored.

[Photo Kumu hula, pahu (left) ipu heke (right) with three young female dancers behind him; grass house and people in background; Moanalua, Oahu, Hawaii. Ca. 1883. Photo by Frank Davey. SP 42080.]

Pupu‘u wale ko‘u wahi ē,

Rough is my place,

He ‘ā wale ko‘u moe,

My bed is full of lava,

I moe ho‘i au i Kanikū,

I sleep at Kanikū,

I waena konu o ka ‘ino,

Amidst the roughest lands,

Ka po‘e ‘ino o lākou nei,

See the evil ones among them,

E mana kā ia‘u e hele,

Let the mana be with me as I go,

E hele nō ā.

I depart now.

[MS SC Roberts 4.2, Pg. 67]

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