Ho‘i ē, Ho‘i lā

An Essay by Kīhei de Silva                                                        << HMI MM preview 2014

Haku Mele:  Traditional.  The mele does not appear in any archival texts; this suggests that it has been maintained exclusively in the traditions of the hālau hula.

Source:  Mrs. Elizabeth Kekau‘ilani Kalama, as taught to Māpuana de Silva in 1986-1987.

Our Text:  As given to Māpuana by Elizabeth Kekau‘ilani Kalama in 1986.

This traditional exit hula was taught to Māpuana by Kekau‘ilani Kalama (Aunty Nana) who learned it, in turn, from her teacher Lōkālia Montgomery.[1] We have not consciously changed any of it – and we’ve made every conscious effort to keep it unchanged. The text and translation provided below are transcribed as they were given to us by Aunty Nana; diacritical marks have been added to reflect the Hawaiian orthographic conventions of our day. 

The central image of “Ho‘i ē, Ho‘i lā” is an adorning mist that returns to its upland home after delighting the residents of the everyday world. This home is characterized by lehua, birds, fragrance, ferns, and – above all – love. The image reminds us that hula comes from a higher place and that hula’s purpose is to connect us to this place so that, even after the dance’s conclusion, we lead lives infused with love. 

Ho‘i ē, Ho‘i lā

Ho‘i ē, ho‘i lā

Ho‘i e ka ‘ohu ē

I ka uka lehua

A‘o kula manu ē

Onaona i ke ‘ala

Lau o ke kupukupu[2]

Kupu a‘e ke aloha

Noho pono i ka ni‘o[3]

They return, return

The mists return once again

To the upland home of lehua

The haunt of many birds

Ever sweetened by the fragranc

Of the leaves of fern

There love sprouts and grows

To dwell always in the heights.


1.  Aunty Nana, her cousin Aunty Maiki, and their friend Aunty Sally Wood were among Lōkālia’s five graduates in 1946; Maiki as ho‘opa‘a, Nana and Sally as kumu hula. Maiki graduated two years later as kumu.

2. Kupukupu. The name of the single-stemmed fern added to the hula altar as a request “for knowledge to sprout (kupu)” (Pukui, Hawaiian Dictionary, 186). The word also provides a subtle echo of the oli kūpe‘e, “‘A‘ala kupukupu ka uka o Kānehoa.”

3. Ka ni‘o.  “The highest point”; also a synonym for kuahu, “altar” (Hawaiian Dictionary, 267). Although “Ho‘i ē, Ho‘i lā” is considerably less weighty than “Ho‘opuka e ka Lā” in tone and content, its subtle allusions to dressing chants and kuahu hula serve to remind us of the consecrated nature of hula’s origins – and of the aloha that dwells in its very heart.  

© Kīhei de Silva, 2011.  All rights reserved.