Kekahao‘iolani

Author: 
Kapalai'ula de Silva

 

Press-release photo; Honolulu Star Bulletin

Harriet Lanihau Makekau was born on January 31, 1915 (the 80th anniversary of William Lunalilo’s birthday), to Manase Makekau of Kaua‘i and Bessie Ko‘olani of Hawai‘i. She was born in Nāpō‘opo‘o in a small, frame house built by her maternal grandfather George Panila Kāmauhoa, governor of South Kona. Harriet was adopted in her youth by her grand-aunt Julia Keahi Luahine, a loea hula of the Kaua‘i line, who re-christened her “‘Iolani” when a kahuna suggested that a change of name would counter the effects of an illness that threatened the girl’s eyesight. The illness abated, her eyes healed, and ‘Iolani Luahine looked with new vision upon a world in which she would become hula kapu, one dedicated to Laka for life. ‘Iolani’s family estate is still there at Nāpō‘opo‘o; Aunty Delma Kay tends to it with loving care, and the Abigail Kawananakoa Foundation maintains it as a retreat for po‘e hula who need the still very real presence of ‘Iolani as inspiration and touchstone. On one wall of the house is a line drawing of Kekahao‘iolani, a hale that will someday be built here as a more formal repository of things pertaining to hula and as a residence for those who are devoted to the study of hula. For now, however, Aunty ‘Io’s old place is place enough: the sweet singing of “birds” here persists unabated across the generations 

Aia i ka wehi o Nāpō‘opo‘o
Ka home wai‘olu a‘o ‘Iolani

Lawea mai ke ‘ala o ka pūhala
Ke ‘ala ua kau i ka pili o ke ao

Eia Hōnaunau i ke ahe a ka ‘Eka
Ke nā‘ū nei nā kamali‘i i ka lā

Unonoke ke kani a nā manu hōkio
Ka leo honehone a ke aloha

He mele he inoa no ‘Iolani
Ka pua laha ‘ole a Keahi Luahine

There in the dark embrace of Nāpō‘opo‘o
Is the sanctuary of ‘Iolani

Where the fragrance of pūhala carries gently
And alights at the coming of day

Here is Hōnaunau in the ‘Eka’s soft caress
Where children chant nā‘ū to the sun

The singing of birds persists here, undiminished
The sweetly appealing voices of love

This is a mele, a name chant for ‘Iolani
The cherished blossom of Keahi Luahine.

 
 

© Kapalai‘ula de Silva, 2002