Ans Westra contact sheets, women dancing, children singing.

Ans Westra

These are real people. No one can accuse Ans Westra of favouritism, as her subjects are from the four points of the compass . . . Ans Westra has seen and then shown the Māori people as they are – N. P. K. Puriri

Take an audio tour with Paul Diamond one of the curators of Pūkana. Paul shares stories and highlights from the exhibition.

Listen to Paul Diamond talk about the Ans Westra in Pūkana

  • Transcript — Ans Westra

    And at the very end of the exhibition is a section dedicated to the work of Ans Westra a very famous New Zealand documentary photographer who has donated her collection to the Turnbull Library.

    It's been digitised, and in this section we thought we would look at some of the photos that she's taken that have Māori performance. And you don't actually have to look very hard in Ans' collection to see Māori performance. Because when she was capturing Māori life, she was capturing performance. So there's a slideshow, sort of inspired by seeing the outdoor area at Suite Gallery in Wellington who represent, and they've got some giant visions of Ans’ images reproduced on walls outside.

    And I thought, well, they looked incredible, and I hadn't realised the power that they have when they're large. So, working with Ans and her sister Yvonne and David also from Suite Gallery, we've put together this collection of images from Ans’ collection featuring Māori performance.

    And then there are two beautiful prints that Yvonne has made of Ans’ images, two very famous images.

    One is of children performing at the Whatatutu Primary School, which is near Gisbourne in 1963. And it's an image of these kids who've got this band that they've made. One of the boys has a drum. The other one is singing on a microphone that's actually a baking powder tin. And she just captures this amazing moment. The kids are standing in front of the blackboard, and particularly the boy singing into the microphone is performing.

    And then we're also looking at another image of Ans’ of the same year actually. It's 1963, at Tūrangawaewae in Ngaruawahia. And in between the formalities of the coronation commemorations, which Ans photographed for many years, there would be these dances called kopikopi, which is only done in that part of the country by Tainui. And kopikopi is your belly, and it's a dance where women move their bellies.

    And it's not – it's not a formal planned thing – it's just something that happens in the gaps. And Ans took a lot of photos of these women doing the kopikopi but then she noticed that there was something happening in front of the meeting house, Ma hinaarangi. And she captured this moment where there's a woman dancing. There's a woman beside her playing the harmonica, and then Canon Wi Huata, Anglican minister is leaning forward with the microphone so that the woman playing the harmonica can be heard. That image has become incredibly famous.

    So what we – the final part of this exhibition, the section on the exhibition about Ans’ work is an enlargement of the two contact sheets that Ans has donated to the library to see – so that people can see the sequence of the photos and how this photo – the photo that's famous is part of a series. And you actually see how Ans actually worked as a photographer and also her huge skill, because every single one of these images is beautiful.

    So we've got those two famous images. And then in a case, we've got the actual contact sheets themselves. Because not just young people actually, but lots of people wouldn't even know what a contact sheet was. And that also the square format is unusual too that Ans was working in. So the four shots that she had on every, sort of, roll of film she was working with. And then she printed the contact sheets so that people could see what was on the films.

    So the idea for this exhibition came from Chris Szekely, who is the chief librarian of the Turnbull Library. And he asked us if we were interested in this idea about an exhibition on Māori performance. And he said really the only two parameters for us were that we really try hard to just use our collections to, sort of, celebrate our anniversary, but that we also try and have particular appeal to young Maori 15 to 35.

    And that's – I mean, I'm not 15 to 35, so we'll have to see. The jury's out on that one, but we've been gratified by the response we've had so far.

    But maybe just to finish I could read out a quote from Ans, because when we told Ans what we were doing, she got it straight away. And she emailed us back, and she said you know about – speaking about the exhibition Pūkana – she said, “I would love to see this exhibition dance. Make people smile. I feel that we need that just now. All that talent among Māori, let's celebrate”.

    And that’s it. Pūkana in a nutshell. Kia ora.

    Any errors with the transcript, let us know and we will fix them: digital-services@dia.govt.nz

  • Transcript — Ans Westra

    And at the very end of the exhibition is a section dedicated to the work of Ans Westra a very famous New Zealand documentary photographer who has donated her collection to the Turnbull Library.

    It's been digitised, and in this section we thought we would look at some of the photos that she's taken that have Māori performance. And you don't actually have to look very hard in Ans' collection to see Māori performance. Because when she was capturing Māori life, she was capturing performance. So there's a slideshow, sort of inspired by seeing the outdoor area at Suite Gallery in Wellington who represent, and they've got some giant visions of Ans’ images reproduced on walls outside.

    And I thought, well, they looked incredible, and I hadn't realised the power that they have when they're large. So, working with Ans and her sister Yvonne and David also from Suite Gallery, we've put together this collection of images from Ans’ collection featuring Māori performance.

    And then there are two beautiful prints that Yvonne has made of Ans’ images, two very famous images.

    One is of children performing at the Whatatutu Primary School, which is near Gisbourne in 1963. And it's an image of these kids who've got this band that they've made. One of the boys has a drum. The other one is singing on a microphone that's actually a baking powder tin. And she just captures this amazing moment. The kids are standing in front of the blackboard, and particularly the boy singing into the microphone is performing.

    And then we're also looking at another image of Ans’ of the same year actually. It's 1963, at Tūrangawaewae in Ngaruawahia. And in between the formalities of the coronation commemorations, which Ans photographed for many years, there would be these dances called kopikopi, which is only done in that part of the country by Tainui. And kopikopi is your belly, and it's a dance where women move their bellies.

    And it's not – it's not a formal planned thing – it's just something that happens in the gaps. And Ans took a lot of photos of these women doing the kopikopi but then she noticed that there was something happening in front of the meeting house, Ma hinaarangi. And she captured this moment where there's a woman dancing. There's a woman beside her playing the harmonica, and then Canon Wi Huata, Anglican minister is leaning forward with the microphone so that the woman playing the harmonica can be heard. That image has become incredibly famous.

    So what we – the final part of this exhibition, the section on the exhibition about Ans’ work is an enlargement of the two contact sheets that Ans has donated to the library to see – so that people can see the sequence of the photos and how this photo – the photo that's famous is part of a series. And you actually see how Ans actually worked as a photographer and also her huge skill, because every single one of these images is beautiful.

    So we've got those two famous images. And then in a case, we've got the actual contact sheets themselves. Because not just young people actually, but lots of people wouldn't even know what a contact sheet was. And that also the square format is unusual too that Ans was working in. So the four shots that she had on every, sort of, roll of film she was working with. And then she printed the contact sheets so that people could see what was on the films.

    So the idea for this exhibition came from Chris Szekely, who is the chief librarian of the Turnbull Library. And he asked us if we were interested in this idea about an exhibition on Māori performance. And he said really the only two parameters for us were that we really try hard to just use our collections to, sort of, celebrate our anniversary, but that we also try and have particular appeal to young Maori 15 to 35.

    And that's – I mean, I'm not 15 to 35, so we'll have to see. The jury's out on that one, but we've been gratified by the response we've had so far.

    But maybe just to finish I could read out a quote from Ans, because when we told Ans what we were doing, she got it straight away. And she emailed us back, and she said you know about – speaking about the exhibition Pūkana – she said, “I would love to see this exhibition dance. Make people smile. I feel that we need that just now. All that talent among Māori, let's celebrate”.

    And that’s it. Pūkana in a nutshell. Kia ora.

    Any errors with the transcript, let us know and we will fix them: digital-services@dia.govt.nz

Discover more from the exhibition

Kia aro ki a Ans Westra

Ko Ans Westra tētahi o ngā tino kaihopu whakaahua mātāmua o Aotearoa, ā, e hau ana tōna rongo mō ana whakaahua o te tangata Māori. I puta ēnei i ngā moheni me ngā pukapuka pēnei i Te Ao Hou (i tuhi kōrero hoki ia mō Te Ao Hou), ā, kua whakakitea ki te ao i ngā whakaaturanga maha.

Ka tino kitea nuitia ngā whakaputanga haka, waiata, i ngā āhuatanga maha, i roto i ngā whakaahua a Westra. I takea mai tēnei whiringa whakaahua i āna mahi tuatahi, ka tīmata i ngā tau tuatahi mai i 1960. Kei roto ko tētahi tirohanga hōhonu ki ētahi whakaahua e rua i hopukina ai te wairua whakaputa waiata, puoro, inā rā: te pēne o te kura tuatahi o Whatatutu; me ngā wāhine e kanikani ana i ngā whakamaumaharatanga o te Koroneihana i te 1963 i Tūrangawaewae marae.

Kua noho ngā whakaahua me ngā whakaaro o Westra hei tānga whakaaro mō Pūkana. E ai ki a Westra, i ana kōrero mō Pūkana: ‘Ko taku hiahia kia tino kanikani tēnei whakakitenga; kia menemene te iwi i te tirohanga atu. He mate nui tēnei mō tātou i ēnei rā, kia kata. Ngā pūmanawa whakamīharo o te Māori . . . kia harikoa tātou.’

Spotlight on Ans Westra

Ans Westra is one of New Zealand’s foremost documentary photographers, well known for her portraits of Māori. These appeared in publications such as Te Ao Hou (for which she also wrote) and have also been exhibited.

Māori performances, in many different settings, feature strongly in Westra’s photographs. This selection of images is mostly from her earlier work, dating from the 1960s. It includes a closer look at two famous photos that capture moments of performance: the Whatatutu Primary School band; and women performing at the 1963 Coronation commemorations at Tūrangawaewae marae.

Westra’s photographs and ideas have been an inspiration for Pūkana. And Westra herself said of Pūkana: ‘I would love to see this exhibition dance; make people smile. I feel that we need that just now. All that talent amongst Māori . . . let’s celebrate.’

Images on a wall, including a woman with a club and enlarged photo contact sheets.

Feature image at top of page: Detail of Ans Westra's contact sheets in the Pūkana exhibition. Photo by Mark Beatty.