Men of calibre: A curious and unexpected friendship


Keith Jackson & Freinds: PNG Attitude, 19 January 2015

Man of Calibre by Baka Barakove Bina, CreateSpace, 2015, ISBN-10: 1499751842, ISBN-13: 978-1499751840. 248 pages. Kindle $3.27, Paperback $16.20 + postage. Order here

FRIENDSHIPS come in many forms and from many sources. From shared experiences at school or at work. From shared interests in sport and pastimes. And through connections with family and friends. Some friendships last a lifetime. Others are more transitory.

Many of my most lasting friendships were formed when I was training to teach in Papua New Guinea in the mid-1960s, and then during my nearly 10 years as a teacher and writer there until the early 1970s.

Papua New Guinea remains, as was reinforced for me last year, a continuing source of friendship.

I have never met my newest Papua New Guinean friend.

We’ve had several telephone conversations and we share frequent email exchanges. Through these contacts, and the power of a shared interest, I’ve come to know and admire him as a true friend.

I know, for instance, that he’s been a soldier, teacher, a village layabout (his own words) and a lawyer. And he is a long-serving senior officer in the PNG National Court registry.

I also know that he is a true family man, committed to and supported by his wife (a teacher with multiple qualifications), four adult children and several grandchildren.

He is an exemplary citizen of PNG who, while domiciled in Port Moresby, retains resilient connections with his home village in the Eastern Highlands.

Apart from his family and work, my newest friend has a great passion: to write. And there lies our shared interest and connection, and the source of our friendship.

Baka Bina was writing well before the institution of the Crocodile Prize, but there’s no doubt it has served to inspire and encourage him, as it has with so many other PNG writers.

It’s more than the Prize itself. The mentorships and other support that Keith Jackson and Phil Fitzpatrick have put in place provide a growing number of Papua New Guinean writers with access to experience and advice from other writers who help develop their writing and storytelling skills.

Baka Bina had written and published several excellent children’s stories before we were introduced.

When I asked, in an email, why he writes, Baka told me that he considers himself an introvert (with the implication that writing is an attractive solitary activity) and that it allows him to escape other obligations – which I don’t necessarily believe,

He also told me that his stories seemed to entertain his family and friends – which they undoubtedly do.

What Baka didn’t mention at first, but which became apparent as our relationship developed, is that his wife, Emily (an Arts graduate) not only supports and encourages his writing but that she is his muse and best critical friend. It adds strength to the saying that “behind every good man, there’s a good woman.”

Emily was a prime mover and informant for Baka’s first novel, Man of Calibre, which has just been published on CreateSpace and is available through Amazon (see above).

The novel describes, in entertaining detail and through a cast of memorable characters, the processes of contemporary dispute resolution in an Eastern Highlands village.

It has been my great privilege and a wonderfully satisfying experience to accompany Baka and Emily on a six-month journey to bring Man of Calibre to fruition.

As is well-known, the relationship between author and mentor, or editor, can be fraught with all kinds of difficulties. But that was certainly not our experience.

Baka, quite rightly, chose to accept my suggestions, or not, with admirable grace, and through our frequent exchanges of manuscripts and emails, and the occasional telephone call, we developed the kind of rapport that many editors and authors only dream of – a rapport that can be called, unreservedly, ‘friendship’.

Baka has already embarked on his next publishing journey and has asked me to accompany him again. And there’s also a third project in the offing.

I might add that, along with our shared love of stories, words and writing, we also share another abiding passion: the Queensland Maroons. That’s more than enough icing on the cake of common interest to cement a friendship.

Download an exclusive excerpt from Chapter 1 of Baka Bina’s Man of Calibre


Published by Ples Singsing

Ples Singsing is envisioned to be a new platform for Papua Niuginian expressions of creativity, ingenuity and originality in art and culture. We deliberately highlight these two very broad themes as they can encompass the diverse subjects, from technology, medicine and architecture to linguistics, music, fishing, gardening et cetera. Papua Niuginian ways of thinking, living, believing, communicating, dying and so on can cover the gamut of academic, journalistic or opinionated writing and we believe that unless we give ourselves a platform to talk about and discuss these things in an open, free and non-exclusively academic space that they may remain the fodder for academics, journalists and other types of writers alone. New social media platforms have given every individual a personal space to share their feelings and ideas openly, sometimes without immediate censure. The Ples Singsing writer’s blog would like to provide another more structured platform for Papua Niuginian expressions in written, visual and audio formats while also providing some regulation of the type and content of materials to be shared publicly.

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