Peter Wells, 1950-2019

Peter Wells’ death on 18 February 2019 brings to an end a life of remarkable creativity, courage and originality. To historians Peter may be best known for his two recent books: The Hungry Heart (2012), a study of the life of William Colenso, and Journey to a Hanging (2014) a study of Rev Volkner and Kereopa Te Rau and the circumstances around their tragic encounter. In both works Peter was highly attentive to the archive by which these stories and histories are known – and how they are concealed or unknowable.

In his wider writing, and film making, and script editing, Peter brought a courageous voice to New Zealand, making sexuality a subject for drama, history, debate and celebration. His feature movie, Desperate Remedies (1993) starring Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Kevin Smith and Cliff Curtis animates a view of colonial New Zealand which is unparalleled. In my view it will stand as one of the great works of 20thC creativity and history. In all his work, including comments and reviews, Peter brought a curiosity, a sharp and fresh intelligence and a dedication to beautiful words and images. He made our world of Aotearoa New Zealand brighter, deeper, truer.

The NZHA extends its condolences to Douglas Lloyd Jenkins and all of Peter’s wide circle of family and friends.

Charlotte Macdonald