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Ans Westra’s “Washday At The Pa” Republished

(October 2011)

Ans Westra’s “Washday At The Pa” Republished After Forty-Seven Years

On 27 October {Suite} Publishing will launch a new edition of Ans Westra’s Washday at the Pa. The book will include images made for the 1964 first and second editions as well as images made by Westra in 1998 as part of a subsequent project: Washday at the Pa Revisited. Accompanying the images is text by Mark Amery, which chronicles the Washday chapter of New Zealand history.

Forty-seven years ago Westra provided the text and forty-four images for a Department of Education journal made for primary schools. Titled Washday at the Pa the book followed a day in the life of a rural Maori family of eight children awaiting relocation to a state house in the city. The family was given the fictitious name ‘Wereta’ to protect their identity, and their location was given not as Ruatoria (where the family actually lived) but ‘near Taihape’.

Following protests by the Maori Women Welfare League Washday at the Pa was controversially withdrawn from circulation by the Department of Education.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. Westra defended the integrity of the images and as copyright owner later in 1964 published the second edition through the Caxton Press. Westra took this opportunity to add twenty-two new images, some introducing whole new episodes to the story.

Westra kept in touch with the family and in 1998 photographed three of the grown up children and their families (Washday at the Pa Revisted). She was interested to see how things had changed.

“In many ways things hadn’t. They still had the very large families, which was interesting. The one daughter who was the key figure in the story, she still had no wallpaper on her walls and said “that is what I remember from Mum. I don’t want carpet, I don’t want wallpaper, it’s not important. That’s not the childhood I remember, and I feel comfortable.” It’s quite interesting” Westra is quoted as saying in the new book.
“The Washday episode/controversy still resonates with both Maori and Pakeha on a number of significant levels. The new book reflects on the ongoing relevance of the issues stimulated by the original publication and ensures that important historical images are accessible to a new and wide audience” said Luit Bieringa, former director of the National Art Gallery and coordinator of Handboek: Ans Westra Photographs.

Copies of Washday at the Pa are available from {Suite} Publishing via for $24.95. Supported by Creative New Zealand, the project is coordinated by David Alsop. An exhibition of prints from Washday at the Pa opens at {Suite} Gallery in Wellington on 26 October.


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