Mekila e nā ‘Iwa e Kaka‘i Ana

Robert Lokomaika'iokalani Snakenberg


Photo courtesy of The Bess Press
Robert Lokomaika'iokalani Snakenberg, keiki ho'okama of Tūtū Noah Kepo'ikai Spencer and, later, of Kupuna Lilia Wahinemaika'i Hale. Snakenberg, he haole piha, never once took advantage of his ho'okama status by laying claim to the genealogy of his adopted people, nor did he seek to undermine their entitlements, trusts, and institutions. Instead, he devoted himself to the education of Hawaiian children in their own language and culture. He was, among other things, the 1978 Hawai'i Teacher of the Year.
Kīhei de Silva
Auntie Irmgard Aluli and “Loko” at a 1976 Kūhiō Day celebration at Kailua District Park. The two friends collaborated in the composition of “E Pili mai 'Oe I'au,” the Haku Mele winner of the 1986 Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards.

Lokomaika'i Snakenberg, a paionia (“pioneer”) Hawaiian language teacher at Kailua High School in the 1970’s and 80’s, composed “Mekila e nā Iwa” as a mele hula ho'i (an “exit dance”) for a Kailua-based hālau to use in the 1984 Merrie Monarch Festival. His mele describes the gathering of 'iwa above Kawainui pond, their drinking of water there, and their return "to the sea at full tide." It is readily apparent that the mele was written after careful study of the imagery, movement pattern, and meaning of the traditional entrance and exit hula "Ho'opuka e ka Lā ma ka Hikina" and "Ho'i ē, Ho'i lā." The arrival of “Mekila’s” 'iwa, like those in "Ho'opuka," captivates our attention and wraps us in wonder; their association with life-sustaining Kawainui echoes the "let there be life for all" sentiments of "Ho'opuka," and their return to the sea by way of Mahinui's updrafts echoes the return, in "Ho'i ē," of the beloved mists to their upland home. Both traditional compositions emphasize bird and mist as messengers of a higher love whose presence serves to lift us out of our petty lives and inspire us to dwell always "where love sprouts and grows." "Mekila e nā 'Iwa" concludes with a similar emphasis: the 'iwa of Kawainui are not caught up in lesser emotions; they are one at Waialoha. The mele's kaona rests in these last two lines: don't dance to compete, dance for love. Loko has since passed away; his mele is published here, for the first time, with the permission of those for whom it was written.

Mekila e nā 'iwa e kaka'i ana
I ka māpumāpu iho i ka 'iliwai
I Kawainui makahehi i ka i'a
A huli a'e e kīkaha i ka holouka
I luna a'e ho'i o ka Mahinui
E hoho'i aku ana i ke kai ulu.
He 'iwa 'ole na'e ho'ohae nāulu,
Ho'okahi nō kaunu pū i Waialoha.

Handsome are the 'iwa flying in formation
Swooping down to the water's surface
At Kawainui which is so attractive to fish
They turn upward and soar on the updrafts
Up above Mahinui Ridge
Returning back to the sea at full tide.
These are not lovely ones stirring up envy,
For there is only love at Waialoha.


© Robert Lokomaika'iokalani Snakenberg, 1984