Tributes paid to early Maori film-maker the late Ramai Hayward…

Tribute: Ramai Hayward wrote the script for Song of the Wanganui, a journey up the Whanganui River. Photo/Supplied
Ramai Hayward wrote the script for Song of the Wanganui, a journey up the Whanganui River. Photo/Supplied

Actor, film-maker and campaigner Patricia Rongomaitara “Ramai” Hayward – who had ties to the Whanganui River – died this month and tributes have flowed from the Maori Party and from film and television circles.

Hayward was 98 years old and had outlived her film-maker husband Rudall Hayward. Together they were Hayward Films and made documentaries and features in four countries, including communist China in the 1950s.

But before that Ramai Te Miha (she was also known as Patricia Miller) was New Zealand’s first professional Maori photographer, with a studio and employees in Auckland.

She was born in Martinborough in 1916, and spent much of her early life with her Maori grandmother in the Wairarapa. She met Rudall Hayward when she acted the part of the beautiful Ariana in his 1940 film Rewi’s Last Stand.

They married and she learned to use camera and sound equipment – the only woman in England or New Zealand who could do so at the time.

The two made many films.

In 1955 Hayward wrote the script for Song of the Wanganui, a journey up the Whanganui River showing scenes from its past. The Putiki Maori Choir sang in it.

A more famous film was To Love a Maori, New Zealand’s first colour feature film in 1972. Perhaps her best-known screen role would be the part of Billy T James’ bossy mother in his 1990 sitcom series.

But Hayward was also a painter and author, and she was faithful to her Maori background. She is said to have turned down a knighthood in protest over land rights, and joined in a protest over a Wairarapa land sale. In later life she became a member of the Maori Women’s Welfare League.

She did accept becoming a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) in 2006, for services to film.

On Monday the Maori Party paid tribute to the pioneering film maker. Co-leader Tariana Turia said she showed the courage and tenacity of Maori to stand up and be counted.

“Hayward Films presented Maori issues in a positive frame in a time when few other film makers were so inclined. It would be fascinating to see the collaboration that Ramai and Rudall brought to a documentary called The World is Turning Towards the Coloured People, which I believe never made it to the box office.”


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