Libraries can provide new lakatois to sail


A modern day lakatoi on a staged cruise for the Hiri Moale festival held annually in Port Moresby

Henry Ipoki is a mature age student at Sacred Heart Secondary School in Tapini. Last year Henry was one of the first entrants for the Ples Singsing Tingting Bilong Mi Essay competition. His essay was hand-written, faxed to someone in Port Moresby who then took pictures and emailed us the JPEG images of the entry form and the essay.

Henry demonstrated good resourcefulness so although the essay did not fit into the word-length criteria, the judges were still provided with his essay to assess its merits along with all the others.

While Henry’s essay was not placed within the winning entries, in his work he had thought through the topic well enough to offer us some wisdom which is worth reflecting upon. And that’s always a good endpoint for written work.

The essay begins by recounting a fascinating old legend about the origin of the lakatoi built by the people of Boera. Henry uses this story to draw a parallel between the first person who learned from ‘a mysterious spirit source’ how to build a lakatoi and his experience, and the expectation, when using a library.

In the oral tradition the receipt or access to special knowledge is a powerful and trans-formative experience, and in many cases such knowledge can only be attributed to mysterious forces.

In the legend, when the young Boera man returns to his village after being instructed by the spirit, he gathers the rest of the men together in a meeting place and teaches them his new knowledge. The next day all the trained men then put their efforts and resources into building the first ever lakatoi.

The lakatoi became the sailing vessel by which an important barter system – the Hiri trade – was started along the Gulf of Papua. This trade route allowed the exchange of goods, skills and information between different people, bonding relationships and even intermarriage of families.

Henry compares this with the modern-day experience where he should be able to go to a library to select the books available land read in them the information he needs, and thereby use such knowledge to help himself and his family. Today’s ‘spirit source’ may be the internet.

This is a profound message and the manner by which it is presented in the essay seems in keeping with the traditional way of imparting knowledge through story-telling and comparison.

The metaphor I derive from Henry’s essay is of a library leading to the building of a new lakatoi with which our people may sail new horizons for material benefits as well as growing social relations and improving our knowledge of the world.

Bereva momokani (Truth).

Henry Ipoki’s short but meaningful essay is presented here with light editing. His message had made a worthy voyage with a good effort to achieve its goal. Read it.

PNG Government should buy PNG Authored Books – An essay by Henry Ipoki

A friend of Ples Singsing Blog, who is also a published PNG author, helped to type out the essay for judging

In our country, there are different books written in different forms or genre such as narrative, poetry, legends and many more.

If you want to know the history of other people how their ancestors came about or the activities that they used to do in the past, then the easiest way is to go to the library or suitable place where you can be able to find some of those books that are written by our PNG writers or authors and from there you can have access to what you are looking for.

For example, I am from Central Province so if I want to know about how my ancestors came up with the idea of building the Lakatoi boat in Boera village, I will read the legend about that.

First of all, I would go to the place where I think I can get that history book and read through. After that I would ask my parents, bubus and elder brothers and sisters and then start doing an investigation and find out about the true story which goes something like this.

In Boera village, since men decided to go fishing in the sea. Along their fishing trip the masalai (spirit) took one of them into the ocean and was teaching him the skill of building a Lakatoi. When the masalai sent him back to the village, he called a meeting and shared the skills that he received from the masalai with the other village men.

The next day, they tried out their new skills to see if it could work and they made the first Lakatoi boat.

When completed, they were very happy because it will help them transport their goods to the neighboring village or place like Gulf and other villages along the coast of Central Province to trade, a system we now called barter.

During this trading, they got used to the system and know how to interact with each other, share their skills or ideas and exchange the goods for their survival.

So simply I will say that this was an example of today’s life situation that we are experiencing which helps in our understanding and development.

So, I wish that PNG Government should buy PNG authored books.

In our country of course some of our cultures and lifestyles are same but a bit different. We can’t understand and know cultures and traditions in our own country if PNG Government buys reading books and other text books from other countries.

The proper and appropriate way is we have to get deep into knowing our cultures and traditions and also backgrounds and lifestyles. After, we can probably buy readers and text books from other countries and trying to learn their lifestyles or tradition.

By doing this, we can be able to develop our skills and knowledge so that we can do something good and better for us and for the generations to come. In that way you will see the different systems like political system, leadership system or trading system will balance and function well and people will be satisfied with they are doing.  

Therefore, PNG Government must buy PNG Authored Books and supply them to the schools throughout the nation. From there we can be able to help each other in one way and the other to bring services into our nation and achieve good results.

On the other hand, government officials must do the same by reading those books and figure out some ideas and ways to help their people. Because it is the best way which will open up our minds, eyes and ears to bring light into the darkness or areas we are not sure about.

Secondly, our PNG writers are always providing good help and skilful books forms. Inside those books, they express many good stories under different forms of writing that we would get ideas from like example mentioned above. The reason why they are doing this is because they know that it is the educational way which would help young Papua New Guineans to develop their learning capacity to become good future leaders of our country.

In some of the magazines and newspapers you’ll find out that most of the people writing or expressing their life stories from the beginning since childhood and how they had been facing difficulties and experience tough situation on their journey towards achieving their goals. And then from there next generation will learn from them and to become good future leaders who will raise the economy and bring our country out to the sunlight like the other overseas countries.

To conclude, PNG Government should buy PNG authored books if they want good ways to build our country. They must make use of whatever resources that we have instead of buying things from outside countries. Because when they buy things especially books from overseas, they spend a lot of Kina which is supposed to be used for other activities within our own country. There are a lot of things to be done and we still yet to be developed so our own books can help us succeed.

I strongly encourage PNG Government to buy PNG authored books to make use of them. I believe that this will bear fruit one fine day.  And on that same note, I thank PNG writers or authors for their effort. God will help them to continue with their work.

PNG Government must go back to their respective provinces, districts and wards and learn from the traditional government and balance the modern and the traditional government lifestyles in order to develop our country with harmony, peace and love as a Christian country.

The Tingting BIlong Mi Essay Competition was launched on December 2020 with the aim of gaining the critical opinions of young Papua Niuginians about the topic asking “Why the PNG government should/should not buy PNG authored books”. The essay responses were a resounding “Yes, they should”. Ples Singsing Blog is preparing a book publication of the 24 collected essays.

For more information email

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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