Kumulipo by Liliuokalani

Kumulipo by Liliuokalani

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The Kumulipo (1897) is a traditional chant translated by Lili‘uokalani. Published in 1897, the translation was written in the aftermath of Lili‘uokalani’s attempt to appeal on behalf of her people to President Grover Cleveland, a personal friend. Although she inspired Cleveland to demand her reinstatement, the United States Congress published the Morgan Report in 1894, which denied U.S. involvement in the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii. 

The Kumulipo, written during the Queen’s imprisonment in Iolani Palace, is a genealogical and historical epic that describes the creation of the cosmos and the emergence of humans, plants, and animals from “the slime which established the earth.” “At the time that turned the heat of the earth, / At the time when the heavens turned and changed, / At the time when the light of the sun was subdued / To cause light to break forth, / At the time of the night of Makalii (winter) / Then began the slime which established the earth, / The source of deepest darkness.”

Traditionally recited during the makahiki season to celebrate the god Lono, the chant was passed down through Hawaiian oral tradition and contains the history of their people and the emergence of life from chaos. A testament to Lili‘uokalani’s intellect and skill as a poet and songwriter, her translation of The Kumulipo is also an artifact of colonization, produced while the Queen was living in captivity in her own palace.

Although her attempt to advocate for Hawaiian sovereignty and the restoration of the monarchy was unsuccessful, Lili‘uokalani, Hawaii’s first and only queen, has been recognized as a beloved monarch who never stopped fighting for the rights of her people. With a beautifully designed cover and professionally typeset manuscript, this edition of Lili‘uokalani’s The Kumulipo is a classic of Hawaiian literature reimagined for modern readers.