Ans Westra Obituary, Death – An iconic New Zealand photographer named Ans Westra, who had lived in Belmont for a very long time and passed away at the age of 86 at her home this week, has passed away. I am so upset to have learned of her passing tonight.
Ans moved to Aotearoa from the Netherlands in 1957, and in the decades that followed, she spent her time traveling throughout the nation and photographing the people, places, and things that made up her new home.
When I was in Naenae a few years ago, I happened to be at the Trade School Kitchen café, which is where I first met Ans.
A couple of weeks earlier, on the day that our prime minister visited to announce government funding towards the construction of the new Naenae Pool, Jacindamania had swept through the very same café. But meeting Ans, whose work I had admired greatly for a number of years, left me feeling even more like I had met a celebrity. I brought to Ans’s attention the fact that almost 60 years ago, she had photographed the opening of Waiwhet Marae.
She explained to me that she had always been interested in Maori culture, and that’s why on that particular day in September 1960, she had taken the train to Woburn Station, followed the sound of waiata to locate the new marae, and photographed the events taking place there along with members of the Waiwhet community. Also by chance, I had a small part in the discovery of a treasure trove of photographs that Ans had taken of Naenae during her artist residency at the Dowse Art Museum in the late 1980s.
Some of these photographs had been printed for exhibition in and around Naenae the previous year as part of the exhibition titled ‘Time Capsule: Ans Westra in the Hutt,’ which was held in Naenae. It was a great honor to be asked to give a speech at the opening of the exhibition in Hillary Court, where I acknowledged how Ans’s many thousands of photographs of New Zealanders going about their everyday lives serve as an extraordinary record of ordinary life in our country. In my remarks, I focused on how these photographs serve as a record of ordinary life in our country.