19 October 2020
Papua New Guineans must unite to create their own history. Papua New Guineans must speak to establish their own history. Papua New Guineans must write to establish their own history. Papua New Guineans must dare to create to make their own history. – – Bernard Mullu Narokobi, 1980
History is one of the oldest forms of knowledge among academic disciplines. It should come as no surprise that it is also one of the most diverse forms of knowledge, for what is history but the functional abode of all human knowledge and experience. The principle tenets and guiding framework that might govern the discipline of history operate at such a high level that it becomes ambiguous and may even seem invisible to specialised practitioners of different branches of history and especially to practitioners of other related disciplines within the social sciences, like anthropology, archaeology and sociology. The truism that everything and everyone has a history cannot here be undermined and it is when one understands this simple, albeit platitudinous, statement that one can truly appreciate the task that a historian of anything is faced with. Historicity is an omnipresent quality ineradicable in all things. Writing a history of anything must then employ an interdisciplinary approach if it is to make a substantial contribution to the body of knowledge of the subject.
In essence, the aim of Ples Singsing is to broaden the scope of how history is written in PNG and encourage oral history, orature and other traditional forms of cultural expression as legitimate ways in which PNG’s past can be historicised. This entails creating and promoting a Papua New Guinean historiography in the form of audio and video recordings and a strict observation of other traditional forms and sources of history. It goes without saying that the turn to the medium of writing since the early 1930s is now a form of expression of our Papua New Guinean ways and Papua New Guinean literature. It is important to promote a sense of history among Papua New Guineans that our historical movement is worth actively recording and is imperative for the future development of PNG and understanding itself within the global context. It is not enough to just assume that traditional societies had no sense of history, or to deem them inferior to ‘hard evidence’ dug out of the ground devoid of context; rather, it is better to analyse our traditions and customs to understand our past and how it can facilitate the writing of our own histories through our own research models, cultural frameworks and forms of expression.