ENTRY IN THE TINGTING BILONG MI 2020 ESSAY COMPETITION
A Long Listed essay
By Illeana Dom
The last time I entered my now former schools library was in November of last year during one of the last Language and Literature classes of my high school career. Whilst making my way slowly through the non-fiction section that contained the small range of books authored by Papua New Guineans. I noticed that the majority of the books present, were the same ones I’d seen since Year Seven. Taking a peak to the other side of the library, to the fiction section it was quite obvious that the shelves were dominated by novels written by international authors. Not even a section of the shelves had been devoted to Papua New Guinean stories and tales. This lack of PNG authored books, I quickly realised would be the shared reality for most of the schools in PNG. By looking at the situation from this point of view we can clearly see the lack of importance and attention that the Papua New Guinean Government has put on locally authored books. Without a doubt, the PNG Government needs to support our local authors by publishing and purchasing their written work so it can be read and appreciated by fellow Papua New Guineans and the world.
Every few years containers of books are shipped from Australia to PNG for distribution to schools and colleges around the country. Back in 2010, a combined total of 539, 000 books arrived in Port Moresby and Lae destined for primary schools and teachers colleges. ‘’These were textbooks funded by the Australian government through the AusAID programme in consultation with the Department of Education through its curriculum division. The cost involved was reportedly about K20 million to purchase, ship, and distribute.’’ Winduo, S. (2010, February 19). Book floods without PNG authors. The Weekender. Twenty million kina is quite a large sum even if it was spent on providing resources needed for educating the future generation of literate Papua New Guineans. Imagine if half or even just a quarter of that money was reserved solely for the purchase of PNG authored books and resource materials. Local authors would have their time to shine and make money off their written work. If there was government funding allocated to purchase local books and reprint Papua New Guinean classics, local authors would have the support they need in order to write literature, novels, essays and poetry that expresses our national identity. Most PNG writers today are only able to publish their books using their own finances and if lucky, through charitable sources. To this day, many Papua New Guinean writers are having their books published mainly by international publishing companies overseas with little to no support from the PNG Government. Why does the government spend millions of kina only buying books from overseas when we have local authors that write just as well as any other author from the United States and Australia? Shouldn’t we be promoting local writers and their books just as we do local singers and their songs? It makes no sense to put aside PNG authored books that are worthy to be read, shared and taught from.
Western culture is taking over our society. The Generation Z and even the Millennials of this world spend most of their time endlessly scrolling through social media and their main struggle these days is having to keep up with the latest tik-tok trends. In this day and age people seem to read books only when the situation calls for it and not just for leisure. More than ever we need people, especially teenagers and young children to be reading our own stories. Stories that we as Papua New Guineans can relate to and learn lessons from. We need to be reminded of who we are and just how special and different we are from the rest of the world. School libraries around the country need to be filled with PNG literature for all Papua New Guineans to access. However, first the National Library should be able to pay local authors to have their books distributed. So that each party can benefit from this transaction. This depends entirely on the Government working together with the PNG Education Department.
Additionally, programmes and projects need to be set up by the government in partnership with institutions to help our current and up and coming writers. Through this support, the books they write and publish can eventually be used in schools and institutions as teaching and reading materials. Many local writers badly want to contribute to the education of the future generations of Papua New Guinea but are just not been given the chance to do so. Moreover, local government funded bookshops need to get on board with supporting local writers as well. ‘’Bookshops and stationery shops also add to the woes and wounds of the local writer when they are unable to sell books by local authors, fail to pay for the books they ordered from the authors or publishers, and when they care less about the local literary scene.’’ (Bariasi, A. (2019, July 5). Author wants more PNG books written and read. The National. The Crocodile Prize, a national literary competition whose aim is to provide support and exposure for writers, poets and essayists, became as successful as it is today with the support of companies and individuals who believe that literature is extremely necessary for the development of a national identity. Although there was support from individual government departments, such as the Minister for Culture, Arts and Tourism, there was no actual government funding nor support. This can serve as inspiration because just imagine the amount of local talent and knowledge that could be tapped into and shared, should the PNG Government decide to support local writers and purchase their books.
It is up to the government along with its departments to make sure the literary talents of this great nation do not remain hidden. If the novels, essays and poetry of our country men and women were to truly acknowledged, our tumbuna (grandparents) stories and beliefs would not be altered with and eventually disappear down the generations. They would remain with us, forever and true in the pages of books.
Winduo, S. (2010, February 19). Book floods without PNG authors. The Weekender.
Baraisi, A. (2019, July 5). Author wants more PNG books written and read. The National.
Dom, M. (2015, May 6). We want more PNG authored books in our schools. PNG Attitude.
About the essayist
My name is Illeana Maldowa Dom and I recently turned nineteen years old. I hail from the Simbu and the Eastern Highlands Provinces. I was born and raised in Port Moresby. I am currently in my first year of university. My writing experience has been limited to producing work for school assessments. Prior to entering the “TingTing bilong mi” 2020 Essay Competition, I had never written competitively.