I have recently got my hands on a copy of ‘Washday at the Pa’. This is the 2011 edition of Ans Westra’s photo essay originally taken in 1963 for the school journal. The exhibition is currently on at Suite Gallery and they have republished the photos with text by Mark Amery and additional 1998 photos of the Washday family revisited.
The original publication created much controversy
“following protests by the Maori Women Welfare League Washday at the Pa [school journal] was controversially withdrawn from circulation by the Department of Education. The League condemned Westra’s depiction of the poor, rural Maori family living in sub-standard housing as untruthful and inaccurate. “
Interestingly the Welfare league has now withdrawn its objections.
There is a great interview with Ans Westra here [Podcast] from Radio NZ Nights with Bryan Crump
I guess this is a sort of cultural artifiact as well as an artistic one and I like to think (although I am possibly wrong) that we are mature enough now as a nation to see these photos in context. Also I’ve been thinking about women in the arts in NZ and how they had/have such a struggle and often were subject to undue criticism. Watch this space for more on that topic.
Get this book and/or see the exhibition – 26 October – 26 November 2011, Suite Gallery, Level 2, 147 Cuba Street