An Essay by Kīhei de Silva                                                        << HMI MM 11 preview

Haku Mele:Kīhei de Silva.

Date:  January 1, 2001; revised, February 2011.

This mele was composed for my mother Lorna Pi‘ilani Pratt de Silva of Hōnaunau, Kona, Hawai‘i. She is a direct descendant, through her maternal great-grandparents Ke‘ōlewa Moanauli Kekuewa (k. born 1845) and Loika Kama‘ilohi (w. born 1847), of both Keawe‘īkekahiali‘iokamoku, the 17th century chief for whom Hale o Keawe was built and named, and of Mo‘oiki Keawe‘ai, the priest who founded that house and fathered the five generations of sons and grandsons who served as its keepers.

Although I am 10 generations removed from the first chief and priest of Hale o Keawe, five generations removed from Ka‘ahumanu’s dismantling of the temple in 1829, and two generations removed from permanent residence at Hōnaunau, I am still responsible for maintaining, as best I can, our family’s connection to our ancestral homeland. This mele, then, is meant to honor my mother and her kulāiwi. It is meant as a loving recitation of the names of those Hōnaunau connections – people, places, guardians, winds, cliffs, birds, lei, mists, waters, rocks, sunsets, activities – that hold us to her and that hold her, in turn, to the place in which she was raised and in whose waters, 24 years ago, we scattered her ashes.

She is the “Ku‘u aloha” of the mele. In its opening lines she rises to the ridgepole of her ancestors at Kīlaulani, and in its closing lines she returns to warm us in the streaming rays of the setting sun. In between, we find her in the lei of generations strung at Ko‘olau and placed at Pu‘uehu; we find her in the ‘iwa-shadowed cliffs of Alahaka, in the life-giving waters that flow into and bubble up from Kapuwai, in the touch of the cooling Kēhau mists, and in the rise and fall of the tide pools at Keawewai.

The larger meaning of the mele – if I have been successful in my efforts to give it such a thing – lies in its expression of cycle and balance: of rise and set, ebb and flow, high and low, then and now, departure and return. I mean to say that there is constant change and uncertainty in the small, part-by-part view of things, but permanence and comfort in the larger whole. Love, I believe, provides the cord that binds the whole, the lei, together. This mele for my mother is given voice by my wife and calls our hula daughters to the stage to dance for mother’s kulāiwi: it travels in a circle from Mom to me to Māpu to the ladies and back. Aia lā.


‘O ka pōnaha iho o ke ao

‘O ke aloha pi‘i i ka lani o Kīlaulani [1]

‘O ia lani kūkūohi [2] a Kahinaaola [3]

Kalāmainu’u, [4] Kamaunuihalakaipo [5]

E ka ipo aloha na ka Hau o Mā‘ihi [6]

Mai māihi mai ‘oe i ka pili ua pa‘a

Ua nu‘a ka hala [7] o Mo‘oiki Keawe‘ai [8]

I mānai ‘ia na Ko‘olau i Pōnahakeone [9]

Nē uē hone i kai o Kauwalomālie [10]

E au mālie ana i Pu‘uehu, Pu‘u o Ka‘ū [11]

Ku‘u ‘iwa kiani, malu iho ka pali o Alahaka [12]

‘O ka haka nō ia e kau ai ka molimoli aloha [13]

Ku‘u aloha ho‘okē wai o Waiho‘i [14]

Inu wai o Waiakapua‘i i Kaihiuwa‘e [15]

Kākele kai o Pōhānoholio [16] i Kapuwai

A ‘ai loli me nā wāhine o Ka‘elehuluhulu [17]

Ku‘u aloha moe lōli‘i i kahi huluhulu [18]

Moe kēhau i ke ala lani ‘ula o Moanauli [19]

Nāu nō ka wai hā‘ule naoa a ke kēhau [20]

Nauane, [21] ‘o ia ka uwalo a Kekuewa [22] i nā‘ū ai [23]

Na‘u ke aloha hi‘ikua, hi‘ialo i Pōhaku Nānā Lā [24]

Nāna ka lawe mimiki o ke au i Keawewai [25]

Aweawe ku‘u lā, ku‘u aloha koili i ka ‘ili kai [26]

I mehana ai ka ‘ūlili [27] i ka hikina mai

He inoa no Pi‘ilani.

It is the gentle circling of the clouds,

It is love’s ascent to the heights of Kīlaulani,

The steep-gabled heights of Kahinaaola,

Kalāmainu‘u, and Kamaunuihalakaipo.

You who are loved by the Hau breeze of Mā‘ihi

Do not undo the bond that holds fast

Heaped are the hala drupes of Mo‘oiki Keawe‘ai

Strung in lei by Ko‘olau at Pōnahakeone

Murmuring, sighing softly below Kauwalomālie

Floating peacefully off Pu‘uehu and Pu‘u o Ka‘ū

My soaring ‘iwa casting shadows on the Alahaka cliffs

The shelf on which love’s imprint rests

My beloved who turns away from the water of Waiho‘i

Who drinks at Waiakapua‘i at Kaihiuwa‘e

Who slips and slides in the water of Pōhānoholio at Kapuwai

Who eats loli with the women of Ka‘elehuluhulu

My beloved who lies at ease on a blanket

Spread on the mist of the red, heavenly path of Moanauli

Yours is the cool, falling mist of the Kēhau

“Nauane” is the call that Kekuewa chanted to the setting sun

Mine is the love carried on the back, carried in the front, at Pōhaku Nānā Lā

That rock for which the tide rises and falls at Keawewai

My sun’s rays stream outward, my beloved resting on the ocean’s surface

At your coming the ‘ūlili finds warmth.

A name chant for Pi‘ilani


1. Kī-lau-lani: A Kekuewa family name, first given to the second priest of Hale o Keawe who served there in the late 18th century (Russ Apple, “A Link to the Past Shattered,” Honolulu Star Bulletin, 2-16-1974). More recent family names include Halelaulani and Laulani, names of my grandmother and one of my mother’s sisters. The name, we think, refers to the intricate, pe‘a-style ti leaf thatching at Hale o Keawe (John Papa Ii in Edwin Bryan, Jr., and Kenneth Emory, The Natural and Cultural History of Honaunau, Kona, Hawai‘i, 128). 

2.  Kūkūohi: “Steep, peaked.” John Papa Ii uses this word in reference to the “peaked appearance inside and outside of [Hale o Keawe]” (Ii in Bryan and Emory, 128).

3.  Ka-hina-a-ola: One of the ancestral guardians of the pu‘uhonua and of our family. Kawena Pukui translates the name as “The leaning-toward-life” (Bryan and Emory, 120).

4.  Ka-lā-mai-nu‘u: Another of these ‘aumakua. Pukui’s translation: “The sunlight from the high place”  (Bryan and Emory, 120).

5. Ka-maunu-i-hala-ka-ipo: A third ‘aumakua. Pukui’s translation: “The bait that catches the sweetheart” (Bryan and Emory, 120). All three guardians are mo‘o (Ibid).

6.  Hau o Mā‘ihi: The sacred breeze of Mā‘ihi, Kona, which was named for Mā‘ihi-ala-kapu-o-Lono, the daughter of the god Lono-a-ipu (Mary Kawena Pukui, ‘Ōlelo No‘eau, #1303). Lines 5 and 6 of this mele are meant to echo those in “Pau ‘ole ka mana‘o / Ka nani o Ki‘ilae,” a mele composed for Kaōana‘eha and her lands to the south of the pu‘uhonua (“He Inoa no Malia Kaonaeha Davis,” Henriques-Peabody Collection, Gen.19:43, Bishop Museum Archives). Ka‘ōana‘eha was Queen Emma’s grandmother; our family’s kahu-relationship with Emma and Alexander Liholiho is indicated in Emma‘s reference to Nāhalau (one of my great-great-great grandfathers) in Alfons Korn’s News from Moloka'i, 14, 15n.2, 33.

7.  Ua nu‘a ka hala: “Heaped up are the hala.”  According to my mother, her Tūtū-man Henry Kalā Kekuewa (b. 1873) would string lei hala for himself every morning that the family’s pūhala was in fruit. Theirs, she said, was the only pūhala in the Hōnaunau neighborhood, and the lei hala was regarded as her grandfather’s “trademark” and – by extension – the Kekuewa family lei. Although the lei’s specific significance was never explained to my mother, we believe that it ties-in with the meaning of the family name and the family’s ancestral duties at Hale o Keawe (see notes 8, 9, and 22 below). The lei hala’s traditional, double-edged kaona of loss and renewal, of putting behind and starting anew, is particularly meaningful in light of the Kekuewa history.

8.  Mo‘oiki Keawe‘ai: A family ancestor and priest of the pu‘uhonua during the reign of his senior-line relative Keawe‘īkekahiali‘iokamoku. He is remembered for his part in the founding of Hale o Keawe and for the five mo‘o tattoos on his eyebrows, cheeks, and chin. Oral traditions regarding Mo‘oiki Keawe‘ai and the sons and grandsons who succeeded him at Hale o Keawe are recorded in Apple, 2-16-74; Bryan and Emory, 184-5; and Dorothy Barrere, Tracing the Past at Honaunau, 19.

9. Ko‘olau i Pōnahakeone: John F.G. Stokes’ 1919 survey of Hōnaunau makes reference to the village adjacent to the pu‘uhonua where, at “Ponahakeone was another place called Koolau, where a chief was said to have resided” (in Bryan and Emory, 219). The place-name Ko‘olau probably derives from Keli‘ikuewa Ke‘ōlewa Ko‘olau Moanauli (b. 1823). He is one of my great-great-great grandfathers; members of our family (currently Mrs. Carla Freitas and Zadoc Kekuewa) still live at his home site in Hōnaunau; the names Ko‘olau, Ke‘ōlewa, and Pōnahakeone are still carried by his de Silva and Kamaka‘ala descendants.

10. Ka-uwalo-mālie: According to Stokes, this is “the name of the whole [land] section indicated as the king’s residence” (in Bryan and Emory, 221}. It is bordered on the north by Kapuwai cove and on the west by Keone‘ele cove; it is just inside the stone wall that separates the current National Park from the old family residence at Ko‘olau.

11.  Pu‘uehu, Pu‘u o Ka‘ū: Names for sections of shoreline along the northern bank of Kapuwai cove. Pu‘uehu overlooks the narrow neck of the cove; Pu‘u o Ka‘ū is the point at which Kapuwai bends into Hōnaunau Bay. It is at Pu‘u o Ka‘ū that my mother's ashes were scattered and where our family returns each Thanksgiving to set lei of maile and hala adrift in the cove.

12.  Alahaka: The name of the bay and cliffs south of Hōnaunau. These lines again echo “He inoa no Kaoanaeha.”

13.  Ka molimoli aloha: A shortening of the ‘aumakua name Kāne-i-ka-molimoli-aloha which Pukui translates as “Kāne who inspires a feeling of nostalgic longing.”  Literally, molimoli is a verb describing the use of the tattoo needle; a molimoli aloha, then, is the process by which love makes its indelible mark.

14.  Waiho‘i: The name of a fresh water spring in the area now covered by the Kapuwai cove boat ramp. According to Stokes, Waiho‘i was the water source used by commoners of the old village (in Bryan and Emory, 218).

15.  Waiakapua‘i i Kaihiuwa‘e: Stokes gives the best known of the sacred springs of Kapuwai cove the same name as the cove itself: Kapuwai. My mother, however, insisted that the correct name is Wai-a-ka-pua‘i because “the water bubbles out (pua‘i)” from a crevice in the pāhoehoe bank on the Kauwalomālie side of Kapuwai. I saw the spring as a child, but it has since dried up. Kaihiuwa‘e is the name of the land at the north wall of the current park enclosure just inland and up the bank from Waiakapua‘i; it is pictured in Bryan and Emory’s republication of the Stokes’ report (Fig 13.21,188; BPBM negative 3419).

16.  Pōhā-noho-lio: “Saddle Rock” – a name used by my mother and her family for a large submerged boulder in the middle of Kapuwai cove. The slippery upper surface of the rock is shaped like a large saddle on which generations of Hōnaunau kids have played a watery version of “King of the Hill.” 

17. Ka‘elehuluhulu: Literally, “The dark-growth covered pond.” Stokes locates it at the water’s edge of the eastern corner of Kapuwai where “the chiefs’ wives were accustomed to lounge and eat newly gathered loli” under man-made shelters whose nine post holes were, in 1919, still visible in the lava (in Bryan and Emory, 218).

18.  Moe lōli‘i i kahi huluhulu: Reclining at ease on a blanket. This image attempts to capture a memory of my mother resting on a blanket on the pāhoehoe flats between Pu‘uehu and Pu‘u o Ka‘ū on Thanksgiving Day, 1986, watching her grandchildren play in the water at Saddle Rock. This was at our last family gathering in Hōnaunau before her death in early 1987.

19.  Moanauli: One of my great-great-great-great grandfathers. He was born in Wai‘ōhinu, Ka’ū in 1799 or 1803, and married Ka‘ilihau of Waipi‘o Valley; Keli‘ikuewa Ke‘olewa Ko‘olau Moanauli was their son.

20.  Ka wai hā‘ule naoa a ke kēhau: This line and the line that follows are meant to echo the second verse of a less popular version of the Kamehameha II mele “‘O Kona Kai ‘Ōpua i ka La‘i”: “Hā‘ule naoa ka wai [instead of “hiolo nā wai...”] a ke kēhau / Ke nā‘ū lā nā kamali‘i – The water of the kēhau mist falls rippling as the children play nā‘ū” (Pukui and Elbert, Hawaiian Dictionary, “nā‘ū,” 263).

21.  Nauane!: “On the way! Move along! This exclamation is reported to have been said by priests as they carried the images; it is used alone or with the imperative e preceding” (Ibid, “nauane,” 263).

22.  Kekuewa: This family name is a shortened version of the original Ke-(a)li‘i-kuewa, the exiled/wandering/homeless chief. The name was first given in 1823 to the aforementioned Keli‘ikuewa Ke‘ōlewa Ko‘olau Moanauli and refers, we think, not to the shiftless nature of our family but to the overthrow of the kapu and the subsequent loss of our traditional role as keepers of Hale o Keawe. We became “homeless” when that hale and its iwi ali‘i were removed from our care.

23.  Nā‘ū lā: Chanting “nā‘ū” to the sun. Nā‘ū is a children's chanting game of Kona and Ka‘ū, Hawai‘i. At sunset, just as the sun touches the surface of the sea, each participant takes a single deep breath and releases a prolonged nā-ūūūūūūūū sound. The winner is the child whose nā‘ū lasts longest. Children are also told that the sound of nā‘ū will hold the sun in the sky; it will not set until the breath is completely spent. I learned this game from my mother who insisted that my brother and I play it while lying with our heads over still tide pools near Pu‘u o Ka‘ū, Hōnaunau. “Don‘t ripple the water,” she would scold, “that means you‘re letting out too much air.” 

24. Pōhaku Nānā Lā: “Stone for looking at the sun.” A large boulder that rests, partially submerged, in the lava flats to the west of Hale o Keawe. “With the sun in the right direction, a youngster could dive through the tunnel [under the rock] with eyes open and see the sun like a bright glowing green ball” (Stokes in Bryan and Emory, 197, 198).

25.  Keawewai. A shallow arm of Hōnaunau Bay that reaches into the pāhoehoe flow directly north of Hale o Keawe and ‘Ale‘ale‘a heiau. Keawewai fills and empties with the rise and fall of the tide, varying in depth from “3 ft. at its seaward entrance to less than 6 in. at the distal end” (Alison Kay in Bryan and Emory, 75). Pōhaku Nānā Lā rests in a lava channel that drains into Keawewai.

.26.  Ku‘u lā...koili i ka ‘ili kai: “My sun resting on the surface of the sea.”  Another echo of “‘O Kona Kai ‘Ōpua.” 

27.  ‘Ūlili: The wandering tattler; it migrates to Hawai‘i every winter and is a familiar sight on the Hōnaunau shoreline. My mother’s childhood nickname was ‘Ūlili because, according to her sister Helen Laulani Kamakau, she was forever running back and forth at the water’s edge.

© Kīhei de Silva, 2001, 2011; all rights reserved.