Nowelo: The Hawaiian Word of The Week
I have a friend I don’t get to see often, but when we do get together the hours just seem to fly by as we talk and laugh and kālaimanaʻo (discuss, analyze, carve out meaning together). It is so refreshing to go between cracking up so hard that your pāpālina (cheeks) come all sore, and delving into weighty topics like access (or lack thereof) to knowledge about one’s moʻokūʻauhau (genealogy) and one hānau (birthplace). No matter what the subject is, though, noiʻi nowelo aku nō māua – we always dive in deep. Ok, the wine helps, but garranz we would do it anyway.
Auhea oe e ka hoa noelo o nei mea he kalai manao – Harken here, friend who seeks this thing that is discussion (F. W. K. KAMAHUALELE, Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, 25 October 1862)
It is no big secret that life is full of large questions. The very nature of human existence causes us to nowelo – to seek and delve, to search for answers to life’s mysteries, both large and small. Some like to do this more than others, but anyone who really builds skills in a particular area is inclined towards nowelo. Looking at the various uses of the word in the writings of our kūpuna gives me the impression that they had a lot of mahalo (appreciation) for nowelo and the effort it takes to really seek out knowledge and wisdom.
E ala mai ka noonoo, ka nowelo, ka halalo, no ka mea he ninau nui keia (Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, 15 February 1873) – Let the intellect awaken, the search for wisdom, the process of deep thought, for this is an important question
Noelo 3. To reason in order to reach right conclusions; to search out the merits of a question; to prepare beforehand by study. (Parker Dictionary)
Nāu i noiʻi noelo aku, pau nā pali paʻa i ka ʻike ʻia – You sought and searched for wisdom, all the solid cliffs were seen (Hawaiian Dictionary, from a chant for Kalākaua)
I love the above song line because it reminds me about how much there is to learn and pushes me to keep going. Kalākau might have seen all those pali paʻa, but it feels like I’m still trying to get the sail up on my waʻa so I can even start. These lyrics remind me, again, that learning is a lifelong process. Conversations with my hoa kūkākūkā I mentioned earlier always leave me feeling energized and motivated to noiʻi nowelo aku i nā mea aʻu e ake ana – to research and seek out what I am desiring.
Speaking of desire, some of the most beautiful uses of nowelo came from love songs. The brilliant composer and musician John Kameaaloha Almeida used the word nowelo in his songs Kiss Me Love and Pānini Puakea. Iaʻu e nowelo ana i ka huaʻōlelo o kēia pule (while I was delving into this week’s word), I came across a song called Pili Aoao by John Meha in Buke Mele Hoonanea. In the hui of this mele (the last of the three examples below), you can see the metaphors and turns of phrase that Almeida drew on, honoring this earlier composer in his own music.
Nani wale ke aloha o ka ipo, nowelo i ka pili ʻaoʻao – The love of the sweetheart is simply beautiful, intently searching for ways to be at [her] side
He aniani wale ʻo Haliʻaloko, nowelo mao ʻole i ka puʻuwai – Fond remembrance comes so clearly, delves unceasingly into all corners of my heart
*Above translations mine
Auē ka nani o ke mele Hawaiʻi – Oh the beauty of Hawaiian music and poetry! All that wisdom, worldview, humor, and aesthetic all packed into this stunning artform. It is a dream of mine to really nowelo there, rather than just dabble. What about you, e ke hoa, what is something you want to noiʻi nowelo? Where do you nowelo now? How do you nowelo? Leave a comment below and share a little about your processes. Knowing how others seek and learn is great food for thought and discussion, especially when I am in the hale loulu with my hoa nowelo o ka pili aumoe! E kāmau kīʻaha e ka poʻe nowelo! – Let us toast, seekers of knowledge! May the wine and wisdom flow.
This week’s modern examples:
Aia ʻo ia ke nowelo lā i ka ʻōlelo Sepania ma Barcelona – S/he is studying/researching Spanish in Barcelona.
Nowelo wale kēlā kāne i ka pili i kou ʻaoʻao! – That guy is really searching for a way to get with you!
P.S. We have chosen to use the spelling nowelo, as this generates a far greater number of examples than the alternate spelling noelo when searching for this word in the online Hawaiian-language newspapers. The two are pronounced the same, the w just making obvious the vowel glide between the o and e. The latest version of modern orthography has let the w go, so noelo is what you will see in more contemporary writings.
E ola ka ʻōlelo o ka ʻāina!