Emergent-Seas: Ea mai ke kai mai

by Kauwila Mahi

A contribution to Abolition’s conversation on “States of Emergency/Emergence: Learning from Mauna Kea” (read the call here)

Emergent-Sea, EA turning like the page

Emergency politics keep us in a cage

Emergent-cease and desist through

prayers and tu-te-lage

Emergent-seize the LAND BACK.

During the reign of Kamehameha III, Kauikeaouli, in Ke Aupuni Hawaiʻi there came an emergent-sea response to a medical emergency. During 1853,[1] Minister of Fincance Gerrit Parmele Judd and Minister of Public Instruction Richard Armstrong sat in political seats of power in Hawaiʻi. They were part of the ongoing medical emergency, Maʻi Puʻupuʻu Liʻiliʻi (Small Pox). Citizens of Hawaiʻi petitioned their Aliʻi by the thousands because the pair had admitted various ill people to Hawaiʻi. In the people’s contestation for and against removal of Judd and Armstrong, they referred to the multitudes of moʻolelo (stories), ʻōlelo noʻeau (proverbs), and mele (songs) to understand the issue and plead their case to the ʻAha Kūkākūkā Malu (Privy Council of The Hawaiian Kingdom).

Knowing that kosmos meaning order and cosmos meaning the stars[2] are “homographs in print,”[3] we should celestialize this past medical emergency as a referrential point for our present and future Emergent-Seas.[4]

Hawaiʻi citizens went to great lengths to emphasize moʻolelo, ʻōlelo noʻeau, and mele in petitions because they knew every single petition would be heard. This process was an early functioning signal of democratic life which preceded an Amerikkkan democracy built on African Slavery and Indigenous Genocide.[5] The move to admit foreigners nurtured a pandemic: Judd-Armstrong’s admittance of foreigners accelarated a population collapse brought about by disease in the latter part of the prior century. Ka ʻAha Kūkākūkā Malu by way of a push and pull from their citizens decided to keep the pair. It is endarkening rather than illuminating, as I will explain, that the rise came from the citizens who knew intimately that the government would, at the very least, hear them out. While many citizens believed the decision to keep Kauka (Judd) and Limaikaika (Armstrong) in political seats of power to be a poor one, the response of Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi was an emergent-sea that elucidates their aloha for their hunalepo (dust mote/citizens). A government who refuses to listen to its citizens approaches authoratorianism.

RISE. In a petition by a wahine aptly nick-named “Wahinepii” she urged her partner Kealiiumiumi to return to her. On multiple occasions Kealiiumiumi deserted Wahinepii, but this time he deserted Wahinepii for ten years.[6] She demanded that he be checked. In Wahinepii’s petition to Kauikeaouli, Kamehameha III and then reigning Mōʻī, she did something quite contentious. As was typical of the day, she began closing her letter by stating, “O wau no me ka mahalo” meaning “I remain with kind regards,” and refers to herself as “Kekahi o kou hunalepo.” This could be interpreted as “One of your specs of dust/dirt” as well as “One of your humblest citizens.” In doing this, Wahinepii extended the malu or protection of Ke Aliʻi unto herself.

RISE. “He aliʻi ka ʻāina, he kauwā ke kānaka.”[7] Reading Kauikeaouli’s proclamation “Eia iau ka aina”[8]  alongside the 25,000 plus governmental documents where kānaka wrote to their Aliʻi/ʻĀina between 1850-1893, it is clear that Land is an Aliʻi and kānaka are its servants. Within these palapala, the Hunalepo kūlou haʻahaʻa or prostrate themselves as kauā, a synchronous maneuver to gain the favor of ʻĀina and establish themselves as essential to sovereignty. Those same documents become animated again by kānaka and non-kanaka calling their Aliʻi/ʻĀina “puuhonua o ka lahui”[9]—a space of refuge for all citizens in Hawaiʻi. Western philosophy stumbled upon this enduring ontological Hawaiian thought from antiquity in which Dirt(ying) and Dust(ing) are where consecration of sacred takes place.[10] Lepo is an infinitesimal but integral part of ʻĀina. Likewise, citizens are Sedimentary and integral parts of Sovereignty.

RISE. The ongoing historical illiteracy of Governor David Ige, head of the settler-state of Hawaiʻi, and his oversight of Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s decision to resume destruction of Iwi Kūpuna and ʻĀina at Hūnānāniho during this pandemic put Kiaʻi, police, construction workers, and the media in a political cage staged as animals at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.[11] This has animated a “legal civil war” that normalizes the elimination of “adversaries who do not fit” or, more aptly, those who do not “belong” to their political system.[12] The settler state is actively “unethical, disgraceful, and itself a form of aggression”[13] because it governs Nxtive bodies and other Kiaʻi but allows militourists to circumvent their own law and emergency orders.  

 RISE. We are not being heard and not being listened to. The militourism model enables military games like RIMPAC and the tourism industry to run amok and continue the degradation of Nxtive bodies.[14] Militouristic capital is premised on bleaching our histories like the coral beds of our constellation of islands. It is invested in an economy of destruction on Nxtive bodies through illness, prostitution, culture bombs, and other explosives.[15] The state physically enforced an “emergency proclamation” on Mauna Kea to remove Kiaʻi who practice one of many ancestral gathering rights,[16] the right to establish puʻuhonua within our Aliʻi/ʻĀina. Kiaʻi, in response to authoritarian emergency orders, have activated ourselves as Pōhaku (Stones), Hau (Ice), Kēhau (Dew), ʻUhiwai (Mists), Hū (Surges), Kūkulu (Pillars), Ua (Rains), ʻAwa (Bitter-Cold Mountain Rains), Wai (Waters), Pele (Lava), Ehu (Dust), and as Hunalepo (Dust/Dirt Motes) to connect intimately with our elemental ancestors while expressing their personalities. The Land itself gives life, the Hunalepo in return protect its sovereignty.[17] As long as we are in relations with ʻĀina there will always be EA.

The Hawaiʻi settler-state capitol emulates a Lua Pele (volcano) where surges are imminent. Endarkening this Ivory Tower, the opening of this legislative season at the capitol was one of the largest Emergent-Seas in many years. Ceremony became focal and what emerged is a “National Hawaiian Consciousness.”[18] One particular newspaper clipping references Pele in a prescient manner: “Eia ka mea kupanaha, ua hana akula na haole mahiko o Kapunakea i pa nui, i mea e pale aku ai i ka ikaika o ka pele. Hu ka aka.” This could be interpreted, “Here is an incredulous happening, the foreign sugar planters of Kapunakea made a large wall-enclosure, to ward off the strength of the pele. Laughable (Amusing).”[19] Months after Hawaiʻi constellated the streets of Waikīkī in red-wear committed to ceremony,[20] the now emptied streets of Waikīkī are a stark reminder of the power of a ceremonial politic and a pandemic: “This marks a rising of the tide.”[21] The contestation of cosmogony and pilina (relations) is a contest of kōnane (a traditional contest which resembles checkers). Hawaiʻi experts in cosmogony and atmospheric observation attend to all signs and signals to move ʻiliʻili (pebbles in kōnane). The settler state declares emergencies, groping in the dark, for ephemeral moments of exceptionally perverse pleasure. Let these kūpuna/palapala become observable atmospheric and celestial points for an Emergent-Seize. Land Back, Ensnare the au (epoch). Kiaʻi are ancestral animators of past and future memories. Our own Emergent-Seas seek the perpetuity of ʻĀina.

“O na Pua Alii a pau, e ku, e ola, a kau a kanikoo, pala lauhala, a haumakaiole, kolopupu e.”

About the Image

ʻAHA HULIHIA. The image titled ʻAHA HULIHIA is an epoch of moments I shared with three brilliant Wāhine Hawaiʻi in ʻAha. From left to right the images are by Leinaala Mahi (Makuahine), Haylee Kamaluonalani Watson (Kuʻu Limu Līpoa), and Leimaile Barrett (Hoa). The Three ʻAha: The ʻAha Hoʻopāpā, Hawaiʻi State Capitol, February 1998; ʻAha ʻOhana, Kīlauea, April 2018; ʻAha Wehena Kau, Hawaiʻi State Capitol, January 2020.


E nā kini he wahi mahalo kēia iā ʻoukou. To the many activators from the rising sun at Haʻehaʻe to the setting sun at Lehua and beyond mahalo a nui iā ʻoukou. Iā Dr. Uahikea Maile and Dr. Sarah Wiebe mahalo a nunui iā ʻolua for facilitating and gathering dialogue during these crucial times.

About the Author

Kauwila Mahi is a PhD Student and Artist in the Political Science Department at University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.  

[1] “Handwritten Petitions to Aha Kuka Malu,” Handwritten Petition Letters, July, 1853, Foreign Office & Executive, Box 5, Folders 7-12, 1853 JUDD-ARMSTRONG FOR/JUDD-ARMSTRONG AGAINST, July, Hawaiʻi State Archives, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi.

[2] Giorgio Agamben, The Omnibus Homo Sacer (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, n.d.), 511.

[3] Noenoe K. Silva, Aloha Betrayed: Native Hawaiian Resistance to American Colonialism (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004), 12.

[4] June Gutmanis, Na Pule Kahiko: Ancient Hawaiian Prayers (Honolulu, Hawaii: Editions Limited, 1983), 2: “O Na Kumu Akua a pau i hanau ia i ka Po i ka La Hiki ku; Ea mai ke kai mai!”. This pule was taught to me by Kumu Kaleikoa Kaeo in 2011 and has been a constant source of E(mergent)A(ncestral) knowledge. I have interpolated the rhythm and words of the pule throughout the essay to incite the elemental ancestors within tap-root of our genealogies to arise within the flowers, that we may simultaneously live into old age. The interpolation “emergent-sea” is meant to represent a singular response to an emergency. “Emergent-Seas” is meant to emphasize an Oceania Rising Together using a multiplicity of ancestral practices to become EA.

[5] “Kaleikoa Ka’eo on Hawaiian Cosmogony, Science, and Consciousness at La Ku’oko’a Conference 2019 – YouTube,” accessed March 2, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0DRhjZATww&t=973s.

[6] Wahinepii, “Handwritten Petition to Kamehameha III From Wahinepii,” Handwritten Petition Letter, April 8, 1850, Foreign Office & Executive, Box 2, Folder 6, 1850 Petitions, Hawaiʻi State Archives, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi.

[7] Pukui, ʻŌlelo Noʻeau, 62: The land is a chief; man is its servant. Land has no need for man, but man needs the land and works it for a livelihood.

[8] Kauikeaouli, Handwritten Documents of Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi Kūʻokoʻa, 404 Series (1790 – 1849), 404-5-10, Hawaiʻi State Archives, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi.

[9] Lāhui Hawaiʻi, Handwritten Documents of Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi Kūʻokoʻa, January 1850 – January 1893, Foreign Office & Executive, Box 1 – 40, Hawaiʻi State Archives, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi.

[10] Agamben, The Omnibus Homo Sacer, 67.

[11] Brandon “Anderson .Paak” Paak Anderson and Andre Romelle “Dr. Dre” Young, Animals – YouTube, accessed May 1, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcUutVO-b-8.

[12] Agamben, 169.

[13] Sue Patricia Haglund, “Ige and Integrity: Machine Politics and Special Interests,” Abolition: A Journal of Insurgent Politics, November 14, 2019, https://abolitionjournal.org/ige-and-integrity-machine-politics-and-special-interests/.

[14] Teresia Teaiwa, “Reflections on Militourism, US Imperialism, and American Studies,” in American Quarterly, Volume 68, 3, 2016, 847–53, 850: the study of militarism and tourism.; Kyle Kajihiro and Laurel Mei-Singh By Tina Grandinetti and 2020 March 29, “Column: This Is No Time for RIMPAC Exercises amid the Coronavirus Pandemic,” Honolulu Star-Advertiser, March 29, 2020, sec. Editorial, https://www.staradvertiser.com/2020/03/29/editorial/island-voices/this-is-no-time-for-rimpac-exercises.

[15] Ngũgĩ wa Thiongʼo, Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature (London : Portsmouth, N.H.: JCurrey ; Heinemann, 1986), 3.

[16] Hawaii. Const. art. XII, § 7.

[17] Noelani Goodyear-Kaʻōpua, introduction to A Nation Rising: Hawaiian Movements for Life, Land, and Sovereignty, ed. Noelani Goodyear-Kaʻōpua, Ikaika Hussey, and Erin Kahunawaikaʻala Wright (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014), 5-6.

[18] Cameron Grimm, “Peak Occupation: The Rising Ea of a Hawaiian National Consciousness,” Abolition: A Journal of Insurgent Politics, January 17, 2020, https://abolitionjournal.org/peak-occupation-the-rising-ea-of-a-hawaiian-national-consciousness/.

[19] J. S. Kalana, “Ka Weli o Hilo,” Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, August 20, 1881.

[20] Samuel Manaiakalani Kamakau. “Ka Moolelo o Kamehameha I. — Ka Nupepa Kuokoa February 16, 1867″. In this moʻolelo the Amamalua Ceremony is a ceremony where Kamehameha I surreptitiously offers Imakakoloa at the same time as Kiwalao was offering a pig. This is the first time he makes a human sacrifice-which activated the akua kaua Kukailimoku. It is the ceremony which activates his potentiality to “Nai Aupuni”. By this act, Kamehameha I intentionally took mana away from Kiwalao thus contesting his right to rule. Amamalua is another name for Kamehameha in nūpepa Hawaiʻi. While the state-structure seeks to sacrifice ʻĀina and Hunalepo, we simultaneously offer up many things with bended knee to our akua. Ceremony has overthrown and united Hawaiʻi before, it has the potentiality to do so again.

[21] Bob Boilen, The Roots Feat. Bilal: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert, accessed May 1, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eB4oFu4BtQ8.

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