Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington
Gate 3, Kelburn Parade
Wellington 6140
New Zealand

“Washday: A Short Film”, Reframing the narrative through cinema

Stout Research Centre seminar series

3.00pm 03 May 2024

In collaboration with the Stout Research Centre for New Zealand Studies this talk is part of the seminar series Re-Reading Works on Poverty in Aotearoa New Zealand which takes a fresh look at some major Aotearoa cultural works on poverty. Across six weeks historians, curators, researchers, writers, and performers ‘re-read’ books, plays, novels, songs, and academic analyses from across the 20th century shedding light on the historic trajectories of poverty in our country. In looking back this series invites an evaluation of our contemporary situation, providing context for current issues such as inequality, our low wage economy, beneficiary shaming, gendered poverty and the long-lasting effects of colonisation.

This film by Kath Akuhata-Brown is a response to the book Washday at the Pa written by Ans Westra featuring the artist’s iconic photography. When the book was published in 1964 and distributed to New Zealand schools it became the focus of Māori protest. A few months after the release of the book, and after pressure from Māori, in particular the Māori Women's Welfare League, the book was recalled. Though photographed in Ruatoria on the East Coast, the book tells the story of a day in the life of a family from Whanganui. Over the following decades much has been written and filmed about the book and the controversy.

In Akuhata-Brown's film Washday the character Whai turns his car into a water pump while his young daughter, Hine, becomes a force of nature. The film brings together simple rituals of daily life in a small Māori family binding them together with the land, water, air and the constant spiritual presence of our gods and ancestors.

Kath Akuhata-Brown
Ko Hikurangi te maunga, ko Waiapu te awa, Ko Ngati Porou te iwi. Ko Te Aitanga a Mate me Te Whānau a Hinerupe, Te Whanau a Tuwhakairiora ōku hapu.
Akuhata-Brown is a writer and director. A graduate of the Binger Film School at the Amsterdam School of the Arts in the Netherlands, Akuhata-Brown has written and directed television documentaries, docudrama and drama over a career spanning 30 years. She has been a Development and Script advisor and assessor as well as a board member on various industry guilds. Her first feature film Kōkā is due for release in 2025.


This screening & seminar will take place in room MY102, a lecture theatre in the Murphy Building accessed via Kelburn Parade.

This event will also be a live streamed webinar

Image courtesy Kath Akuhata-Brown