19 October 2020
LAE – In her review of my poem collection 26 sonnets (available for free on PNG Attitude) Professor Konai Helu Thaman of the University of Hawaii provided a task to Papua Niuginian writers which I believe is central to our current dual objectives which are to, firstly, make our own contributions to national literature and, secondly, establish and maintain a national literary society in some manner, perhaps as Phil Fitzpatrick expressed in June.
In my thinking the two objectives we have are rolled into one very doable task within what Konai instructs us is our responsibility as writers, readers, poets and pundits.
“We need to re-thing and re-claim our own approaches to appreciating if not attempting to find solutions to issues such as community conflicts and contradictions, education, environmental degradation, politics, social and interpersonal relationships, many of which are directly linked to existing inequities and injustices in our various island nations and are linked directly or indirectly to the current, fashionable ideology of globalization.”
I have been thinking about what it means to “re-thing and re-claim our own approaches”. Although I am sure that Konai and Professor Steven Winduo of University of Papua New Guinea, both eminent writer-scholars, would be able to provide a detailed and deeply thought out expression of these terms but here I provide my own liklik tingting.
It is my understanding that to “thing” means ‘the act of naming, identifying, presenting and placing’ the elements within our own environment, of our lives and society, in our collective consciousness, in the context of our material and imaginary world – the world of Papua Niugini culture.
We have names for the objects and subjects within our own cultural milieu and we should ‘take back’ this societal activity, recover that act of “thing-ing”, we should “re-thing”. By doing so we can re-claim the process by which we define ourselves; as one people.
We reclaim our history, our society and our cultural knowledge and traditions, and by doing so we are able to reorient ourselves in the modern world; as one nation.
In a true sense, this reclamation of our own nationhood is also what Hon. Gary Juffa first propounded in what the Marape Government has now placed as their revival slogan ‘Take Back PNG’.
Writers and poets may often comment on politics, a long standing tradition for which, in the Pasefika context, it was argued that;
To some extent literature cannot divorce itself from politics. George Orwell is by and large correct maintaining that “There is no such thing as genuinely non-political literature, at least of all in an age like our own, when fears, hatreds and loyalties of a directly political kind are near to the surface of everyone’s consciousness.” The statement has particular relevance for South Pacific literature. There is an inherited political element in it because it has emerged as part of a counter ideology to colonialism.
Subramani, South Pacific Literature, from Myth to Fabulation, (Suva, 1985), 154.
The taim bilong ol masta are gone but today we often speak and write about so called neo-colonialism, and the repercussions of global politics and the world economy on our national predicament.
As a poet it seems to me that the environmental slogan “think globally, act locally” has taken over all other facets of human society. So, what does this mean to us in PNG literature?
Whereas, our political leaders immediate objectives are directly within the political and economic agenda of Papua Niugini, writers and poets must “re-thing and reclaim” the cultural and intellectual territory of our nation in order for our literature to flourish, through the application of our rich cultural heritage.
This task also includes giving back our own names, using our own languages and expressions, and reviving our own metaphors, metonyms and allegories.
While in today’s modern world the agenda of politics and economics have achieved a status above all else, and are the main drivers of many global conversations, Ples Singsing harkens back to a taim bipo, when the well being of our own society was central to our discussions before stepping into the domain of relationships with other tribes or nations.
Hausman emi ken istap olsem Paliamen, tasol Ples Singsing em hap bilong olgeta man, meri, pikinini na tumbuna long bung wantaim.
The Ples Singsing blog is created to encourage and facilitate this process to “re-thing and reclaim” our own stories, poetry and drama. Here we may interact with each other through our writing, in literature which expresses what it means to us to be Papua Niuginian.