Tok-singsing blong lusim haus krai bilong Kwin Elizabeth II

A poem for departing the house of mourning for Queen Elizabeth II

By Michael Dom

Dieu et mon droit, Elizabeth Regina

Elizabeth the Great, dieu et mon droit
Elizabeth Regina, peace not might
Your Majesty, you were our one true Queen
A queen that it was our honor to have seen
You kept your faith and so your people too
Could learn to endure and try to be true 
A life of service was what you declaimed
But will we your people dare to reclaim 
Dignity, humility and duty  
As you so valiantly had maintained
Those simple virtues which we shun today
For seventy years you had kept your word
And bequeathed us with a greater empire,
Our Commonwealth of Nations, shall aspire


Kurai Memorial Awards Announcement


Ples Singsing is very glad to inform entrants in the Kurai Memorial Awards that the sponsor of the competition, businessman Cr. Paul Kurai, has advised us that he will double the cash prize money and requestes that we allow a further two months for new entries to be made.

We have naturally complied.

Writers who have already made entries may also wish to use the time to further polish up their manuscripts for resubmission.

Ples Singsing is grateful to Cr. Kurai for his generosity.

Whenever Ples Singsing Writers & Associates are meeting in Port Moresby we like to have our steaks at Ribito Grill and Restaurant

Owned by Paul Kurai, sponsor of Kurai Memorial Awards for short-biographies

Sumatin Magazine Issue #002 July 2022

IN THIS SECOND ISSUE we look back at the start of Papua Niugini’s literary history, with retrospective articles from academic scholars and old students of the ‘father of PNG literature’, Ulrich Horst Beier. We do this in order to ‘give back to PNG what we already have’ – a rich heritage of literary work emerging during colonial, pre- and post-independence periods. We then showcase five recent books by PNG authors.

Sumatin Magazine also pays tribute to the passing away of four national leaders, three knights and a deputy prime minister, as our still young nation moves towards 50 years of independence, and the formation of our tenth national parliament this year.

Today there are many writers using blog platforms, wondering where PNG is heading and when the vicious cycles of political corruption, poor economic development and social decay will end. One young writer poses that PNG is “a nation in denial”.

We at Ples Singsing believe that it is by thinking and writing, reading and reviewing our literary, lifestyle and legislative processes, that people can be brought into a better understanding of what we value, who we are, and what we may achieve together.

One aspiration is to have written and translated works in our three national languages, English, Tok Pisin and Motu. While English may be the language of education, and not disregarding our own local languages, it is very apparent that Tok Pisin and Motu are the most commonly used means of everyday communication. We believe that using our two native oriented languages, and presenting translated works, is a practical and strategic way to open up our national conversations, by including the true diversity of Papua Niugini and allowing this to shine through. There is originality and an intrinsic value for creative works using our own idioms. We should celebrate this uniqueness.

This year author Baka Bina has led the way, being shortlisted in the Commonwealth Short Story competition for a story originally written in Tok Pisin and translated into English. Meanwhile, poetess Fiada Kede won our mini-poetry contest for a dual English and Tok Pisin poem and Michael Dom’s essay, written in Tok Pisin, asks why our languages were banned in school. Also, Caroline Evari reflects on ‘kastom wok’, a culture which all of us share, while Gregory Bablis notes that “history is not a fairy tale”.

We have much more in store for our literary growth and towards revealing who we really are, as a creative people, to the rest of the world.

We wish you pleasant reading!


The political economy of a pig farmers life


Chapter 1, 28 December 2012

Until you have seen your hands blistering
Until you have felt sweat break like fever
Before another new gardens planting

Until you have cleaned the piss and manure
Cut, carried and replaced sodden bedding
Until you have closed the sow with the boar

Until then you only have an inkling
Of what a pig farmer does every day
For the fat pig meat that you are eating

You will never know what it means to say
To us, “agriculture is our back bone”
Until you know the sweat and costs we pay

For a simple meal, in our simple home
Sweet potatoes baked around the fire place
Cups of tea with sugar, lucky for some

And every day we hear about your race
To bring development to your people
But we know that your heart has no more space

If you will not share the gris pik with all
One day your house built from our bones will fall.

Chapter 2, 23 August 2022

You come with all your wisdom and glory
From Pom-Pom City, where the pipelines lead 
And you tell us your wonderful story

It’s on Facebook too, for the few who read
We will soon be the richest black nation
We must stand as one country, with one creed,

While our kids roam in the desolation
Brought on us by your insatiable greed
And our subsistence justification

We have kept our lands without title deeds
And our kids, who’ve had free education,
Survived poor health just to die for your needs

We slew many pigs for your election
And our slain will be likewise rewarded
With money for meat, our life equation

For those who die in battle are lauded
By big-men who own the lands where they fell.
Gas flows, gold glows, but wealth is hoarded

As those who have shared the gris pik know well,
By our values, the portions are not equal.

Man with two wives, tributes to womenfolk who support for peace

A poem by Joseph Tambure

Man Bilong Tupla Bilum

Lukim man bilong tupla bilum
Em sanap namel long ples singsing
Nogat poret na sem no wari tu
Em kisim strong long tupla bilum bilong em
Sanap namel long hevi na birua

No laik long harem tokpait na tokbasait
Em laik soim rot long bel isi na wanbel
Givim na kisim long bel isi pasin
Tupla bilum bilong em i laikim olsem
Man i bihainim tinting blong tupla
Tupla bilum i kapsaitim kaikai,moni na pik lo sait sait blo man bilong tupla
Olsem na gat nem lida long ples
Tupla i wokim bris belong bel isi na gutpla sindaun 
Kros pait pinis na hamamas stap lo ples
Pasin bilong tupla bilum ino nogut

Tasol nau taim senis, tingting op
Manmeri ino wok bilong bel isi 
Man wantaim nogut tingting laik kamap lida
Moni na save ino kamapim gutpla lida
Nogat ,belong kros pait na hevi tasol
Kisim skul long man bilong tupla bilum

Raymond Sigimet wonders where Superman went

A new poem

The Black Superman Paradox (Source: Inverse.com)
A poem by Raymond Sigimet


Where is Superman when you need him
To mend the fence when it is broken
Or lift the load when it is laden
I heard he's fat and too weak to trim

Where is Superman when I need him
To tell me it's okay in the dark
Or take me sight seeing in the park
I heard that he's lost his way and steam

Where is Superman when she needs him
To mow the lawn when the grass is tall
Or hold her hand when she's 'bout to fall
I heard he's taken with his own time

Where is Superman when he needs him
To be the man he grows up to be
Or show the world that he needs to see
I heard he's flying wild in his dream

Where is Superman when we need him
To fix the house when it is falling
Or light the lamp when it is dimming
I heard he's not up to be a team

Lorraine Kluki declaims the denaturing effect of science and embraces natures vitality

Entries in the Mini-Poetry for World Environment Day 2022

Rainforest destruction from gold mining in Peru (Source: EureckAlert!)
Two poems by Lorraine Kluki

An Invaded Home

In pursuit of science
The bosom of the Father
Fades with the wheel of time.
Fame and fortune have dethroned the son’s obligation.
To inherit, watch and yield the estate given to him, 
from his father before his father.

The breathtaking panorama 
of the marvellous canvas of natural grandeur
Now a barren valley and contaminated water. 
Aquamarine being terrorized from their haven,
Birds became immigrants,
And melancholy from trees became visible.

Tyranny of heat torture mankind
Sky mourns and erode the impoverished land.
Ocean swells and ebbs, 
Irate and cause mayhem
Nature becomes disappointed, an honourable villain,
To humanity.

Horror laced with fear of extinction,
That transcends tribes, community and region.
Men reluctant to act,
Ignoring the casualties done.
Relentless loss of nature
Leaving behind turrets of glass and cement pathways.

Anchor To The Land

This is my homeland
I pledge allegiance with my hand
To uphold integrity to the sea and respect the waterways
Foreigners ventured but I refuse to lend.

The crystal, pristine waters whispered my name,
Igniting the reluctant flame,
To explore beyond the reef
And forge unbreakable ties that is not lame.

The sweet scent of the marine I inspire,
From the neatly aligned mangroves I admire.
Wallow in the swamp searching for shells,
Until the sun goes to sleep, I will retire.

Walked a mile and meet the calling stream,
Birds tweet, insects screech and I was lost in a dream.
Unfolding in my presence is the mosaic floor of twisted vines, roots, leaves and branches,
The wonders of the supreme.

The rolling hills and majestic mountain,
Elusive beauty like the fountain.
Compel me to submit to the unveiling virgin environment,
Thus, it is my bounden.

Trees expire and the breeze caress my face,
Water ripples in a slow pace,
And the sky command me to look upward
to shapes formed when the clouds embrace.

The serenity that comes from nature,
A place for closure.
For the land is my anchor
and everywhere I venture is an adventure.

Narokobi and the Melanesian Way

By LISE M DOBRIN and ALEX GOLUB – Posted on The National

A CENTRAL figure in Papua New Guinea’s transition from Australian territory to independent nation, Bernard Narokobi was a jurist, philosopher and poet.
He is best remembered for making ‘the Melanesian Way’ an important theme –if not the guiding ideological principle – in the discourse of independence in Papua New Guinea.
In their introduction to the 2013 Journal of Pacific History special issue on the topic of decolonisation in Melanesia, Helen Gardner and Christopher Waters argue that it is time ‘to begin the task of drilling down into the history of decolonisation in Mel anesia using detailed case studies’.
Their point is not to directly query the success of decolonisation from a presentist perspective given the cynicism we might feel in light of decolonisation’s incompleteness (as in New Caledonia or West Papua), nor to express dissatisfaction with the governance and economy of independent Melanesian countries.
Rather, Gardner and Waters call for historians to focus anew on what decolonisation meant to those who were making it happen by seriously exploring ‘the excitement generated for the new nations of Melanesia and their citizens’as a result of the decolonisation process that was actively underway in the1970s.
This special issue on the life and legacy of Bernard Mullu Narokobi answers Gardner’s and Waters’ call for a history of decolonisation in Melanesia in three ways.

Bernard Narokobi when Attorney-General in 1991. A political and jurisprudential philosopher of great seriousness and stature. – Pictures borrowed

First, it documents and contextualises Narokobi’s life and thought in detail.
A central figure in Papua New Guinea’s transition from Australian territory to independent nation, Narokobi was a jurist, philosopher, and poet who is best remem bered for making ‘the Melanesian Way’an important theme –if not the guiding ideological principle –in the discourse of independence in Papua New Guinea.
Second, in looking closely at Narokobi’s biography, the collection also contributes to a growing body of work on political life writing in the Pacific, part of a long tradition of biographies and biographical essays on historically significant Pacific Islander leaders.
Third, the collection answers Kabutaulaka’sc all for the elaboration of a new discourse of ‘Melanesianism’ which builds a positive cultural identity for Melanesians by moving beyond racist tropes of savagery and darkness.
Kabutaulaka argues that features like shared music and shared language (i.e., closely related varieties of Melanesian Pidgin) unite Melanesians. We hope to demonstrate here that decolonisation gave Melanesians a philosophy that is still highly relevant today.
Bernard Narokobi was not just a political actor in the decolonisation moment, but a theorist of Melanesianism and Melanesian modernity more broadly.
By ‘drilling down’ into his biography, we hope to show that he deserves a place alongside two other great theorists of Melanesian identity: Epeli Hau‘ofa, the peripatetic trickster-theorist of Oceanic modernity, and Jean-Marie Tjibaou, the main theorist of New Caledonia’s struggle for Kanak independence.
In this introduction we give a brief summary of Bernard Narokobi’s biography and say a few words about his style of thought. We then compare him to Tjibaou and Hau‘ofa, concluding with an orientation to the essays that follow.

A brief biographical sketch
The most thorough overview of Narokobi’s life and work remains Greg Bablis’s biographical article on Narokobi as ‘A Melanesian Icon’.
Here we present a highly synoptic version of his biography in order to provide the reader with some basic orientation.
Bernard Narokobi was born in around 1943 in the Arapesh village of Wautogik in the Prince Alexander Mountains of what is now East Sepik. While the exact date of his birth is not certain, we know he was born during the Second World War.
Narokobi estimates that he started primary school at the age of 12 and finished university when he was 28.
Growing up in Wautogik, he attended primary school at the Dagua Mission Station and later went to Brandi High School in Wewak where Michael Somare, who was to become the first prime minister of Papua New Guinea, was his teacher in 1959.
Because he began primary school relatively late and was able to attend school near his village, Narokobi grew up immersed in his home culture and traditions at the same time that he was receiving a Western education. As a result, his childhood was not characterised by the traumatic separation and excruciating longing experienced by other Pacific intellectuals such as Albert Wendt and Epeli Hau‘ofa who were sent away to boarding school.
Narokobi also took his religious training seriously, following his father in becoming a devout Catholic.
In 1960 Narokobi left home to attend Kerevat School in New Britain. Kerevat was founded in the late 1950s as one of the first government-run schools in
the territory that educated Papua New Guineans at high levels. Narokobi attended the school between 1960 and 1965, during which time he crossed paths with many future leaders of Papua New Guinea, including Rabbie Namaliu, another future prime minister.
Narokobi’s interest in law dates back to his time at Kerevat. During the Christmas season of 1964 Narokobi took his first trip to Australia, where he went to ‘see the law courts and attend conferences in procedure’.
Already at that time, one teacher remembered, Narokobi expressed interest in becoming a lawyer. He was encouraged in his professional ambitions by the Australian Judge William Prentice, who supported his efforts to attend university in Australia.
Narokobi was granted a scholarship to study law at the University of Sydney, and he moved to Australia around 1966, eventually receiving his LLB and becoming a barrister in 1972, having been taken under Prentice’s wing.
Upon graduation, Narokobi returned to Papua New Guinea, where he joined the Public Solicitor’s Office or ‘Pubsol’. In this capacity he travelled throughout the country with the Supreme Court defending accused parties, often in capital cases involving serious crimes such as homicide and sorcery.
As a judge later on, Narokobi would often hear similar cases. This was a period of intense intellectual excitement as it was becoming clear that PNG was moving towards independence. Yet Narokobi was somewhat peripheral to this movement, having spent his university years in Sydney and not at the recently established University of Papua New Guinea.
Even after returning to PNG following law school, his time was spent travelling with the court instead of being settled in Port Moresby. As a result, Narokobi became involved with the move towards independence relatively late in the process.
Around 1974 Narokobi was appointed to serve on the Constitutional Planning Committee (CPC), which was tasked with writing the new country’s constitution.
As Sam Kari has demonstrated, much of the work of composing the constitution was done by non-Papua New Guinean experts, and was influenced by the independence experiences of new nations in Africa.
But Narokobi and a small group of other Papua New Guineans –mostly Catholics from New Guinea, like him, such as the Bougainvillean politician and Catholic priest John Momis and the political activist and MP John Kaputin –were responsible for writing the Preamble of the Constitution of Papua New Guinea (henceforth the Preamble).
Narokobi once joked that he did not have a hand in writing the constitution, but that he did have a finger. That may be right, but Narokobi’s finger is important.
The Preamble is the most distinctive, aspirational, and widely known section of the document. In his role on the CPC Narokobi again travelled throughout the country conducting research for the constitution writing process and raising awareness about the forthcoming political changes.
He said that at that time people had so little conception of what was transpiring that some understood themselves to be preparing not for self-government but for sel-kambang (Tok Pisin for ‘lime powder’), and that others thought they would soon be receiving not independence but underpants.
After independence, between 1975 and 1978, Narokobi served as the first chair of the Papua New Guinea Law Reform Commission (LRC), the body empowered by the constitution to provide draft legislation to PNG’s parliament. The goal was to continue the independence process by purging the law of racist colonial legislation and undertake the sort of progressive legislative reform projects happening across the world in that time.
Narokobi saw the work of the LRC as the principal means for replacing the British common law that PNG inherited from its colonial past with a distinctly Papua New Guinean body of law.
But what would it mean for the law–or anything else –to be distinctly
Papua New Guinean? Throughout this period Narokobi wrote newspaper columns exploring this question which were later compiled into his best-known book, The Melanesian Way.
In addition to addressing PNG’s public sphere in this way, Narokobi also published regularly in Point and Catalyst, journals of the non-denominational Christian think tank the Melanesian Institute.
There, in articles such as ‘What Is Religious Experience for a Melanesian?’, Narokobi pursued the religious dimension of his overarching question about what being a citizen of a Papua New Guinean nation might mean.
Along the way Narokobi also wrote books addressing the contemporary political climate, such as Foundations for Nationhood (1975) and Life and Leadership in Melanesia (1983).
The other key work in his corpus besides The Melanesian Way is Lo Bilong Yumi Yet (1989), which attempts to answer many of the questions regarding the distinctiveness of Melanesian culture that he was criticised for evading in The Melanesian Way.
In 1980 Narokobi served for a year as an acting judge and used the opportunity to produce judicial opinions that demonstrated how the bench could shape the common law to be more appropriate for Papua New Guineans. Ultimately, many of his more innovative decisions were overturned, but scrutinising his decisions during this period is key for understanding his thought.
After this short period as an interim judge and practising lawyer, Narokobi became a parliamentarian, being elected to the Wewak Open seat in 1987. He was returned by Wewak in 1992 and again in 1997.
During his time in parliament, Narokobi served as Minister for Justice among other positions, including Parliamentary Speaker (apparently, he even served as acting governor general), and he played an active role in the diplomacy around the Bougainville conflict. When he eventually lost his seat in 2002, he was serving as Leader of the Opposition.
Narokobi’s greatest achievement of this period, in terms of disseminating his philosophy, was the passage of the Underlying Law Act (2000), which finally made official the policy he had pursued earlier as a member of the LRC and as a judge.
The last official position Narokobi held after stepping down from politics was high commissioner to New Zealand (2005–08). Although no longer a member of parliament, he remained active in public life, organising peace talks in Bougainville and helping to establish a Melanesian Studies centre at the University of Goroka. But after his wife died in 2006 his verve for life waned, and he died in 2010 of complications from diabetes.
Melanesia cannot be Australia
In his writings on the Melanesian Way, Narokobi returned repeatedly to the need for people in the emerging nations of Melanesia to actively hone a new, culturally self-aware postcolonial subjectivity to help guide their approach to economic development, governance, and social change.
Narokobi addressed many topics from the standpoint of this synthetic, ancient, yet forward-looking Melanesian Way. Among them were development; race relations; women’s rights; the involvement of the state in local conflict resolution; the rise of individualism and its tensions with communitarian values; land use policy and food security; the need to protect the natural environment; the emergence of social class divisions; international relations and foreign aid; and the social role of modern institutions like churches, media, and the civil service.
Narokobi writes about these matters of culture and development in a remarkable stylistic voice. The awareness that he was living through times of profound historical transformation evoked deep feelings in him that one often can find reflected in the literary quality of his writing:
“Some Melanesians hold to the view that the only way to be acknowledged as a person with worth is to negate his or her ancestral past and adopt the Western life style externally as well as internally.
“In effect they deny a significant part of their identity. They live in a world of fantasy, without a link to the past and a foggy connection with the future …It is disappointing that the people of Papua New Guinea have not realised what tremendous heritage they possess.”

  • Abridged from the much longer article published by ResearchGate