PNG authors return to us our own cultural expressions with authenticity

Andy Ray | Tingting Bilong Mi 2020 Essay

Andy is a student in Mechanical Engineering at PNG University of Technology in Lae.

Books are written based upon the imagination, experience and observation of the author. There are different types of books written by people of diverse cultures and ethnic backgrounds, with a broad variety of reasons and intent.

Writing a book is one thing but getting the book to a shelf is another thing. There are some good Papua New Guinean writers with their magnificent writings swept under the rug getting not much recognition as they deserve. Why?

Those noble writers were writing about our rich culture and unique history for the world to know and admire but they are not getting as much attention and support as they should be getting. The PNG Government is been turning a blind eye on them. Therefore, in this piece of writing, the reason as to why the PNG Government should buy PNG authored books will be discussed.

First and foremost, the rich cultural heritage of Papua New Guinea needs to be cherished and amplified through Papua New Guinean literature. Bolkin (2015) stated that Papua New Guinea has a vault of knowledge and information that can be recorded for the world to know and admire. When people around the world read about our country and its rich cultural heritage, they will fall in love with our rich diverse cultures and unique way of life.

But our culture is being silenced and is dying slowly and soon we shall lose our identity. Bolkin (2015) added that the PNG Government has forgotten that people lived on the island of New Guinea for 50,000 years and the heritage should be cherished. The enormous creativity in the minds of Papua New Guinean writers telling of the rich originality of the PNG experience can be read around the world creating a platform for PNG authored books to make their way to book shelves in other countries bringing in revenue for the country (Kumbon,2019). Therefore, PNG government should buy PNG authored books.

Secondly, billions of kina has been spent on education over the years but there’s not much to show for it. Most students still speak poor English and our illiteracy rate remains one of the highest in the world. Educational standards can be positively impacted by promoting and supporting a home-grown literature, which in turn can preserve our traditions and cultures giving a sense of belonging and pride to our people, and also the story of our great nation can be told to the world (Kumbon,2019).

What’s the use of spending money on building schools if a majority of the population remains illiterate?

Our book shelves are filled with books written by western authors instead of PNG authored books. Those books written by Westerners were written to suit their lifestyle, culture and the way of life and so may not be applicable to our context. Therefore, most students find it difficult to understand simple concepts written in the context of students from other countries.

When more books are written by Papua New Guineans then students may understand and do better at learning. Therefore, the government should buy more PNG authored books and give them to elementary, primary and secondary schools so that they help the educated population of the country and at the same time help create market for PNG authored books on the other hand.

Thirdly, the books exist but the means of getting them to the shelves do not. Kumbon (2019), a local writer states that PNG’s writers are struggling to tell our nations story. He continued by saying that there are no major publishers in the country interested in publishing their work. If they want to publish a book, they have to pay for it and as a result most PNG-authored books would reach fewer than 100 people because they couldn’t supply more due to lack of funds and support.

In most cases, Papua New Guinean authors pay to have their books printed and then they ‘donate’ them so people can read them. They spend their own money to publish and print their books and instead of selling they donate the books. They are sacrificing their time, money and resources to amplify the unique and beautiful cultural heritage of PNG and yet they are not getting as much recognition as they deserve from the government. The key government agencies like the Department of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology and the Department of Education as well as the Ministry of Tourism Arts and Culture, the National Library and the National Cultural Commission are the ones to assist develop operational libraries and to purchase and distribute those PNG-authored books.

Right now, Papua New Guineans – when they do read – are mainly reading books written by outsiders. Kumbon (2019) says when Papua New Guineans read about their own country, their own people, their own stories and issues there will be a huge incentive and a massive source of national pride. However, most Papua New Guineans today read books written by outsiders because those books were made readily available and are cheap.

Sadly, books written by our fellow countrymen and countrywomen are not much read because of their scarcity or unavailability due to certain circumstances. Kanamon (2015) asks why, after all these years, would we bow down to western paradigm instilled in the books of foreign authors that lacks a reflection of PNG’s heritage. The PNG government should buy the PNG-authored books and distribute them around the schools in the country so the students will gain an insight of their cultural heritage.

All in all, the PNG government should invest more on buying PNG-authored books to promote our culture through literature so the future generations will know their history. Most of the kids and even young adults today don’t know their history and culture therefore the society today is facing a moral decay and soon PNG’s unique, vibrant culture will lose its essence. Therefore, the government must buy PNG-authored books to encourage more publications and to keep the story of PNG going, because a nation without a story is like a body without a soul.


Bolkin, S., Kanamon, R. (2015) This is ours: PNG literature re-emerges in the 21st century. Retrieved from

Kumbon, D. (2019). How literature can deliver for the country. The National. Retrieved from

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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