19 Feb 2019
Creative New Zealand is saddened at the passing of legendary New Zealand writer, playwright and filmmaker Peter Wells MNZM yesterday.
Taku manawa e kakapa nei. E kakapa ana ki ngā whetū, ki te marama ka tau nei ki te rua. Kātahi au ka kite i te hē, kātahi au ka kite i te mate.
Ko taku tau kahurangi, ka riro kei Paerau, ki te huihuinga o te kahurangi. Moe mai, moe mai rā. E te kaiwhakaniko i te kupu kōrero e Peter, haere, haere atu rā. Kua noho pani tātou i tō wehenga. Takahia atu rā te arawhanui o te tini, me te mano kua wehe. Aue te mamae e.
Peter made an enormous contribution to New Zealand literature and the wider arts community, bringing the nation’s stories and those of the LGBTQI community to life on paper and on screen.
Through short stories, novels, history, memoir, and film and television, Peter broke new ground in his exploration of New Zealand society and culture, for example shedding light on LGBTQI identity and issues amid the HIV/AIDS epidemic as well as neglected areas of history and race relations.
Peter co-founded the Auckland Writers Festival – now New Zealand’s largest literary showcase – as well as the LGBTQI focused Same Same But Different writers festival, which is now in its fourth year. Both have provided New Zealand writers with platforms to develop their careers.
He was awarded the 2011 Creative New Zealand Michael King Writers’ Fellowship, during which he researched and wrote what would become the non-fiction book Journey to a Hanging (2014), longlisted in the 2016 Ockham NZ Book Awards. He received the Auckland University Literary Fellowship in 1994 and was the inaugural Randell Cottage Writers Trust Resident in 2002.
Peter was equally well known as a film and TV director and scriptwriter, notably for ‘A Death in the Family’ (1986), which won a major New York award for its drama about the loss of a friend to AIDS; and for the feature film Desperate Remedies (co-written and directed with Stewart Main), selected to screen at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival.
His first book, Dangerous Desires, won the Reed Fiction Award, the NZ Book Award, and PEN Best New Book in Prose in 1992. His memoir, Long Loop Home (Vintage, 2001), won the 2002 Montana NZ Book Award for Biography, and he won many awards for his work as a film director.
In 2006, Peter was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature and film.
Our thoughts are with Peter’s husband Douglas Lloyd Jenkins, his family and loved ones.