About a hundred people gathered in early May on Mokuolu, also known as Coconut island, off Hilo, Hawaiʻi for a Māweke. A tradition at Hawaiʻi Community College that was started 15 years ago by the school’s Hawaiian Life Styles program.
“There is a need within our learner community to go through, to have a sense of closure, to their academic cycle,” said Hawaiʻi Community College Associate Professor Kekuhi Kealiʻikanakaʻoleohaililani.
The annual ceremony begins before sunrise, and includes a ritual bathing in the ocean, an ʻawa circle, foods representing the land and sea, and a hula telling the story of the long journey the ancient settlers took to reach Hawaiʻi.
“We expect our learners then to reenact that journey, no matter how far they go,” said Kealiʻikanakaʻoleohaililani.
The participants then call out to canoes waiting offshore and the canoe paddlers respond. After the canoes come ashore, offerings made by the graduates are loaded onto the canoes to be released in the open ocean. The Māweke comes to a close as the canoes circle the island while the participants follow on land, singing.
“By singing the song, we’ve completed the lei,” said Kealiʻikanakaʻoleohaililani. “The learner has completed the cycle.”
Kalani Makekau-Whittaker participated in the ceremony after completing his PhD in education at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo. For him, he says the Māweke served as an important reminder.
“All the work I put in to getting my degree is not just about me, not just about my immediate family, but it’s about the whole community. When I say community, I don’t just mean the human community but the spiritual community, our ancestors, the land.”