Why I think the PNG government SHOULD buy PNG authored books

ENTRY IN THE TINGTING BILONG MI 2020 ESSAY COMPETITION

A Long Listed essay

By Esther Tuweyo

Before I begin on justifying my opinion, a little account on my background that has hence influenced my perception on “Why I think the PNG Government SHOULD buy PNG authored books”.

My Great Grandfather was a pioneer Papua New Guinean Lutheran missionary up to the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. A local man from Finschaffen, he was trained by German Lutheran missionaries in the 1930s. He took up the challenge to trek the undiscovered highlands of New Guinea with the other German missionaries. His team did their travel up to the highlands of New Guinea in 1934, a year after the Leahy brothers had their first expedition up to the Highlands of New Guinea in 1933. He settled in beautiful Waghi Valley and started a lifelong service to the people of Jimi, Waghi and Kambia, his work in the Lutheran church in these areas, foreseeing a future where these areas would be separated from Western Highlands to become Jiwaka Province. All this rich history has been captured in Gabby Mugang’s Biography of my great grandfather “Mugang Mugarewec Bitengere- A Pioneer Missionary to the Highlands of New Guinea” [1]

My Aunt, although capturing a beautiful piece of PNG History, still struggles to sell her book. She had her book published by Marapa Publications, a nationally owned company here in the country and so far is still yet to reap the rewards for capturing this rich history. She is a struggling author and the time, effort and finances, the places she had to walk, trek through the bushes and forest to get the authentic stories from the places my great grandfather visited now seemingly seems to be all for nothing.

She is of course, one of the many Papua New Guinean writers struggling to be successful in their field as writers. Currently in Papua New Guinea, writing is not lucrative; [2] writers are not given the opportunity to believe their work does greater good. As such, writers are not encouraged to grow both intellectually and in numbers. If we cannot capture our livelihood, our way of thinking that has been moulded by culture, tradition and society, who will? Can we depend on the outsider to write down our history, our society, our way of thinking for us? They can only write only through their eyes, and from stories told by us. The way we explain to them which may not be completely authentic through language barriers. [3]

Giving priority to our writers gives them the opportunity to thrive and excel and to present our side of the story into the world, our contribution to the global village, our uniqueness to stand out and be part of the great complex diversity of the global village. We have so much to share! Yet, the world has not seen us for who we are because our rich history, our cultural practices and our society that has shaped us uniquely is yet to be told through our own words down on paper. Moreover these stories should be to be told by authors with world class pedigree that captures attention on a global scale. They need to be given a platform to thrive on and perform as world class writers.

I myself am now writing a fiction novel based on the painful experiences of women and young girls, who have been brutally savaged, being branded as witches without any reason and being burnt at stake here in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. I have set my eyes on entering competitions outside of the country, like the Writer’s Digest competition in New York. This is because I doubt my novel, even though authentically Papua New Guinean and may I modestly say,” potentially world class” may never reach its potential within the borders of my country. It will be read by a few, possibly my own family and friends who are willing to support my novel and probably that would be all the support I might get. Unless I perform a magical ritual like go sing to the sky and wave some silly smoking grass in the air or go to my ‘ples masalai’ to ask the all-feared serpent there to grant me success through my novel (which I don’t even know if the masalai ples still exists, and my father knows and maybe cannot even remember the exact spring for me to go ask the serpent).

Of course, I will not deny PNG authored books by the late Sir Ignatius Kilage “My mother calls me Yaltep”[4] or the respected writers like Sir Paulias Matane, whom I am a great admirer of his book biography “My childhood in New Guinea” [5] Professor Steven Winduo [6], to name a few.

Nevertheless it brings me back to the point that these stories and novels can be remembered and have impacted the lives of young Papua New Guineans growing up because the Government of that day made an effort to fully support the work of these respectable authors and made their books readily available for us growing up, in the public school library and we grew up absorbing cultural perceptions from books like these.

As many Papua New Guinean children today, I am no different to those in my generation born in the 1980s onward, our parents got educated in their villages and made their way into towns and cities, found their partners whilst working, got married and raised us up away from their culture. The village society culture that we knew of were the one off trips to the village, learning what we could and then back to the city; to learn how to read and write, get exposed to the global trend through the media and education and to eventually find employment and “to live like the white men” as our grandparents in the villages would put it.

Hence the cultural library section in primary and high school served as an avenue for us to learn about our culture and the way of the people in the village. That was our cultural education apart from the stories our parents and grandparents told us.

It is evident that the current PNG Government does not to support writings by Papua New Guinean writers with the same degree of attention as it did in the past.[7] I would love to encourage those in my community, rich in generational history, knowledge and cultural stories passed down from their grandparents and from their society to transfer all this wealth into books where our culture intertwines with Spiritualism, medicinal herbs, taboos and belief systems that has made our society rich. These are the valuable things that can be captured through books and are priceless.

Suppose the Government of Papua New Guinea today could provide an avenue for that, to channel all this basic Papua New Guinean wealth into books by encouraging Papua New Guinean writers to write. Where the upcoming generations can absorb this immense wealth of knowledge, like I did and to live in a global village like global citizens but also be aware of how they contribute uniquely as a Papua New Guinean into economy, agriculture, spiritualism, arts and so forth of into the global community. Moreover creating writers with writing that is not limited to our customs and traditions but contemporary writing that can be; apart from social and scientific knowledge- messages of awareness putting light onto perspective about things that we face in contemporary Papua New Guinea like women’s rights, culture clash between the western and traditional lifestyle, research on Papua New Guinea traditional herbs, agriculture, spiritualism and way of conduct in the society to name a few.

I would like to think that because of what I have read as a child growing up in school, and the things I have learnt from my grandparents, I have been shaped into an individual who feels entitled to give back to my people through my knowledge. Hence as a final year undergraduate student in university, I took up an optional course called Research project and focused on herbal medicine researching on the healing herbs, particularly on a native ginger used by my grandparents and how it can be beneficial to modern medicine. I tried looking for PNG literature on this particular native species of ginger in the Zingiberacea family but the only ones I could find were on the common ginger and other ginger species found in Asia. Papua New Guinea ginger studies, as I have learnt from Dr. Osea Gideon[7] a specialist in native herbal studies in Papua New Guinea, was limited and there is little to no PNG Government research funding done particularly on native herb research. My interest in doing further research gradually became one of mediocrity and disappointment; regrettably I did not pass this course.

Today I am researching on how our rich agricultural organic waste unique to our climate and topography can be harnessed through biomass applications to produce thermal and electrical energy so that the famer on a local scale can benefit from the waste his farm produces. There is of course no literature on Papua New Guinea Agricultural local waste conversion.

As an educated Papua New Guinean I would love to use my knowledge to help my people in the village, in my society. Moreover, having a fair idea of my people whilst growing up, I can be able to see through their eyes and see what they need and contribute to the betterment of their lives. I or someone would want to write a book, be it in medicinal/agricultural knowledge or any genre, that can touch people’s lives showcasing the positive ways of Papua New Guinean culture and society. That is to contribute tangible knowledge that can bring positive change not limited within the borders of Papua New Guinea but impacting the world around us as well.

Hence to see this practice of Papua New Guinean authors being supported by the Government of the day is necessary to see cultural knowledge and perceptions being passed down to the next generation to create responsible Papua New Guineans who know their place in the world, who are proud of their cultural heritage and contribute proudly and uniquely as Papua New Guineans.

To reiterate clearly and briefly, the Papua New Guinean essence can be captured in books. Hence the Government of Papua New Guinea should buy Papua New Guinean authored books to support this fact. That is because most PNG authored books will address all different constituents of Papua New Guinean society; from generational stories, stories of ancestral livelihood, medicinal/herbal/agricultural writing addressing our rich herbal and agricultural knowledge, knowledge in Contemporary writing addressing social, economical livelihood of Papua New Guineans before contact, during the first contact, and the decades following leading up to contemporary Papua New Guinea. All these information from these books eventually contribute to Foundational knowledge that explains the creation of this complex multifaceted nation, Papua New Guinea that is striving to find its place in the world today.

References

  1. “Mugang Mugarewec Bitengere- A Pioneer Missionary to the Highlands of New Guinea
  2. Jerry Sefe (2018) ‘PNG Author calls for Government Support’ Post Courier December 7TH
  3. Language Choice in an Acutely Multilingual Society: Communication and Development in
  4. Papua New Guinea Geoff P Smith English Centre, University of Hong Kong
  5. Kilage, Ignatius (1980). My Mother calls me Yaltep. Melbourne, Vic: Oxford University Press.
  6. ISBN 0195546296
  7. Matane, Paulias (1972). My Childhood in New Guinea. Melbourne, Vic: Oxford University
  8. Press. ISBN 0195504348
  9. Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature, 2017. ‘Guest Speaker: Steven Edmund Winduo’
  10. https://hail.to/dunedin-unesco-city-of -literature/article/7fynFGH
  11. Steven Winduo (2013, February 24th) ‘Medicinal Plants in PNG-Saflamara: Fern Ridge Echoes’
  12. stevenwinduo.blogspot.com
  13. Phil Fitzpatrick (2018, December 9th) ‘PNG Government’s total disdain for writers and for
  14. Literature’ PNG Attitude-Kieth Jackson and Friends. http://www.pngattitude.com/2018/12/pnggovernments-
  15. total-disdain-for-talent-for-literature.html

About the essayist

My full name is Esther Qynda Tuweyo (nee Dujambi). My Middle Name stems from West Yangoru, East Sepik Province where my father hails from. My mother hails from Finschaffen in the Morobe Province.  I am married to a Southern Highlander hence the surname Tuweyo. As a child, I grew up in Australia and Indonesia where some of my perceptions were formed, returning to PNG, I had exposure to traditions visiting my parents villages-forming my fundamental perceptions on my people. Moreover, PNG authors did play a significant role in my cultural perceptions.

I graduated from the UPNG intending to be a researcher of native plants. Life took another path for me as I am now a lab technician in another field altogether. However, I have been given an opportunity to research on grid-less electricity from biogas, an available resource to 85% of Papua New Guineans that can be generated from agricultural produce.

My vision is to see every Papua New Guinean who has a garden exploit this resource and generate their own electricity from their backyards.

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.

One thought on “Why I think the PNG government SHOULD buy PNG authored books

  1. Agreed PNG government should support these writers. As it is a developing country most people don’t realise the importance of such books. It is part of our history.
    Government should buy such books and donate them to higher institutions and school libraries for easy access to students.
    As these subjects are not taught in high schools. Examples such as first Lutheran mission in Mt.Hagen was established in Ogelbeng and Catholic in Rabiamul by Fr William Ross.
    My children who are doing Gr 10 and 12 respectively don’t know this.
    Finally my plea is the government should support these writers.

    Liked by 1 person

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