Creative New Zealand mourns the passing of wāhine toa Nancy Brunning

18 Nov 2019

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Nancy Brunning. Photo supplied.
Image: Nancy Brunning. Photo supplied.

Aue te mamae te tau o taku ate kua wehe nei koe. Kua hinga tēnei rātā whakamarumaru o te ao whakaari o te motu. He kanohi hōmiromiro, he ihumanea, he kaitiaki nō tōna pātaka iringa kōrero, kua kore. Kua rere atu rā koe e te tuahine ki ngā awa akeake ki te haupuranga o te kauheke kaumātua, ki te hunanga aru ra o te tangata hokinga kore ki muri. Nā reira haere ra ki to tātou kuia a Hinenuitepō, te tini me te mano e tatari nei mōu. Waiho rā mātou ki kōnei tangi ai. Kua māro tō haere e te tuahine. Nā reira haere, whakangaro atu ra.

Creative New Zealand mourns the passing of award winning, actor, director, writer and friend Nancy Brunning (Ngai Tūhoe, Ngāti Raukawa). Nancy was a powerful creative on Aotearoa stage and screen following her graduation from Toi Whakaari New Zealand Drama School in the 90s.

She played lead roles in significant New Zealand films, television and stage productions. As a multi-talented artist, Nancy has been a major force in kaupapa Māori stories across the arts industries and an advocate for te reo Māori.

In 2014 Nancy was awarded a Creative New Zealand internship to attend the indigenous writing programme at the Banff Centre for indigenous writers in Canada. At the time she said “I’m looking forward to meeting the Blackfoot Nation’s maunga and learning about myself as a writer.  Both opportunities are a privilege,”

Her final and most recent great work of art was Witi’s Wāhine, a powerful new theatre work she directed and wrote, at times, from her hospital bed in the last few months of her life. The work is based on excerpts and female characters from Witi Ihimaera's stories. The play premiered in October at the inaugural Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival in Gisborne, to great acclaim as a seminal New Zealand work.

She was a co-founder of Hāpai Productions with actor and director Tanea Heke, to create work that upholds and celebrates the mana of Māori and assisted in the development of the arts as a valued arts assessor for Creative New Zealand. 

Nancy passed away peacefully in Wellington on Saturday 16 November with her family and daughter beside her. Her passing is mourned by her whanau with an outpouring of aroha from the arts community.

Sadly Nancy’s passing came the day before she was publicly named as the recipient of the prestigious Bruce Mason Award 2019, for playwrights, by Playmarket.

Her body is currently at Raukawa Marae in Otaki. Her tangi will be held at the marae on Wednesday 20 November at 11.30am.

‘He kokonga whare e kitea, he kokonga ngākau e kore e kitea’. 
The corners of a house can be seen, the corners of the heart cannot.  Rest in love, Nan.