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Ans Westra - Māori through the lens

Wairoa, 1964
Wairoa, 1964 1964, Westra, Ans (1936– ), Wairoa. Purchased 1985 with New Zealand Lottery Board funds. Te Papa

Photographer Ans Westra (born 1936) is perhaps best known for her documentation of Maori since the late 1950s, when she migrated to New Zealand and when Maori were moving citywards. 

Westra was interested in Maori culture and how it was changing in the urban environment. Most portrayals of Maori at the time were of the 'souvenir' kind, with Maori in their customary 'costumes'. Westra wanted to show what life was really like on the street, as in this photo, and in people's homes.

The 1964 school bulletin Washday at the Pa was Westra's most controversial publication. This bulletin showed a day in the life of a poor rural family of eight children. It sparked a national debate on how Maori should be depicted.

Nevertheless, Westra continued documenting Maori life, through the cultural revitalisation movement of the 1970s and beyond.

Read more about the Washday at the Pa controversy

Read more about Ans Westra

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