Whanganui could soon have the only library in New Zealand with a collection of traditional Māori instruments available for residents to borrow.
A kete (kit) containing six instruments will be presented to the Alexander Heritage Library Te Rerenga mai o te Kāuru on May 26, as part of a Puanga celebration that will be a musical session with the traditional instruments (taonga puoro).
The free event starts at 6pm and will give people an opportunity to hear the instruments and try playing them. The Kete Puoro will be formally handed to kaumātua during the event.
The kete and its contents have been donated to the library by Awa Puoro ki te Ao, an informal group that plays and teaches about taonga puoro. One of the members is Elise Goodge, who taught a Community Education Whanganui course about them last term.
The group was formed in 2019 and has six members, with four based in Whanganui.
It has performed publicly at the Sarjeant Gallery, city libraries, Bushy Park and Castlecliff Beach. It has also been asked to deliver workshops to organisations such as Te Oranganui Iwi Health Authority.
"We never asked for money in exchange, but we got some quite generous donations," Goodge said.
The group has used the money to fit out the kete. Sam Palmer made the instruments - three flutes, two spun or swung instruments and one percussive instrument. The kete also contains a whāriki (mat), a copy of Brian Flintoff's book on taonga puoro and a booklet designed for those using the taonga.
People borrowing them are asked to clean them before they are returned and, to maintain hygiene, there will be a 72-hour gap before they can be taken out again.
The library will keep a record of how the kete is used in its first year. Goodge imagines people might borrow it for use at a tangi or birthing ceremony, as well as teachers borrowing it for lessons.
Whanganui District Library Māori information librarian Jasmin Ratana worked with the group on the kete concept.
"We're very pleased to be part of this experimental venture in giving access to another part of our community's heritage," she said.
Goodge wasn't sure if the idea of loaning the taonga was workable. She's now excited to try it and see how people respond.