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Awa Puoro to teach those interested in traditional Maori instruments

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Awa Puoro is a recently formed informal group of people with an interest in playing, introducing and teaching others about ngā taonga puoro (traditional Māori musical instruments). The group formed earlier this year and has been seen around Whanganui performing in such locations as The Sarjeant Gallery, the cities Libraries, Bushy Park, The I-site and Castlecliff Beach amoung others. Over the past few months the group has also been invited to participate in and run workshops with different organisations including Te Oranganui Iwi Health Authority and Taumarunui High School.

In response to the community demand to learn more about taonga puoro and how players have used these instruments to assist with managing mental health conditions and trauma, Awa Puoro have organised and are co-facilitating a wānanga this December (13-15 December) at Te Ao Hou Marae, Whanganui. This wānanga is an opportunity to introduce ngā taonga puoro to the wider community by highlighting one of their traditional uses, which was healing. The wānanga is being run in collabortion with ngā taonga puoro practioners, Te Ao Hou Marae and Healthy Families at Te Oranganui Iwi Health Authority. It is seeking to bring community and taonga pūoro practitioners working together to make and play instruments, as well as group discussions with iwi counsellors and health professionals. The tutors include Ruby Mae Hinepunui Solly (Kai Tahu) from Wellington who is an accomplished musician, having just returned from playing with Yo Yo Ma in Christchurch, and has undertaken academic research in taonga puoro as music therapy. Also tutoring will be Jamie Turama Tuahuriri Downes (Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Ruru) who, after struggling with his own mental health, has created customised programmes for Maori that are currently delivered within prisons and youth programmes.

It is planned that the wānanga will finish with participants presenting a concert on Sunday 15 December at 1pm at Te Ao Hou Marae, which will be free and open to the wider community to attend. Other kaiako (teachers), include: Elise Goodge (Ngā Tāngata Tiriti), Sam Palmer and Tom Johnson (Ngāti Kahungunu).

There is a limit of 30 places for the wananga and a cost of $100 per participant. This cost covers all expenses including accommodation, meals, materials and of course tuition. An invitation is extended to those who may be interested in learning about ngā taonga puoro to register for this wananga by contacting emailing

The key contact person for the group is Sebastian Lowe. Other members include Jessica Kahukura, Kiri McGuire, Lee Willams and Gail Imhoff. New members are welcome to join the group at any time by making contact through the Awa Puoro closed group on Facebook.

Awa Puoro acknowledges the support received from Geoffrey Hipango at Te Ao Hou Marae, Creative Communities, Whanganui, James Cook University in Cairns, Healthy Families at Te Oranganui Iwi Health Authority and the Whanganui Learning Centre Trust.

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