“Vernacular traces in the Crocodile Prize”
An essay in five parts
BY MICHAEL DOM WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS BY ED BRUMBY
Tanim tok i hetipen wok tu na ating ino olgeta raita man-meri bai igat laikim na save bilong raitim. Ol tokples bilong yumi inogatim alfabet, grama na ol rul bilong raitim olsem Tok Inglis, na tu Tok Pisin mipela save raitim na toktok long laik bilong mipela iet.
Tasol mi lukim olsem insait long wanwan tok-singsing igat sampela tokbokis, tok-piksa na ol kain stori ol raita i putim long tokinglis we em i kam long nek bilong tokpisin stret na igatim narapela as tingting bihain long en na tokinglis bai ino inapim em olgeta. Tok Inglis tu isave sot long ketch-up long sampela tokpisin yumi tromoi, laka.
Long dispela as mi bin traim han long tanim tok bilong ol sampela tok-singsing we mi lukim bai kam gut long Tok Pisin. Tupela piksa bilong dispela wok em long tok-singsing bilong Jimmy Awagl ‘Ol man-meri bilong back page’ na Dolorose Atai Wo’otong ‘Perfect Gentleman’. Mi bin traim long sikirapim tingting na laik bilong ol narpela raita long traim han bilong ol tu long Tok Pisin na ol Tok Ples tasol inogat bikpela laikim long Crocodile Prize bilong 2016.
Raymond Sigimet em i wanpela raita na poet husait i kamapim sampela tok-singsing long Tok Pisin na tu i tanim Tok Inglis long en. Na tu mi luksave olsem ol wanwan poet i stap long ol narapela sosel midia olsem Poetry PNG Facebook i raitim sampela tok-singsing ikam long Tok Pisin.
Ating em i tru olsem long ol sampela teknikol na saientific wok na ol sampela bikpela save skulwok bai Tok Pisin na Tok Motu i pundaun. (Na wankain pundaun tu long ol Tok Ples.) Tasol long wanem as bai yumi supim nus bilong ol igo long dispela ol niupela na narakain save yumi ol man-meri i kisim long dispela moden taim?
Ating long wok litiretia we igatim ol stori tumbuna, stori bilong nau, drama, na long ol kain media toksave, infomesen na liklik skulwok, bai yumi asua long lusim tingting long dispela tupela nesenol tokples. Igatim planti hanmak bilong Tok Pisin na Tok Motu ikamap pinis long ol literitia wok mi singautim nau tasol. Inap yumi tingting long strongim?
Mi ting olsem Tok Pisin na Tok Motu igat bikpela wok long litiretia (ol kainkain wokmak bilong raita) na litiresi (save bilong rid na rait) tasol yumi iet ino strongim.
Wanpela asua mi lukim em olsem mipela save tok “Tok Pisin emi toktok bilong mipela ol grasruts na liklik man-meri”. Dispela emi igat nek bilong daunim yumi iet long noken igat bikpela save na soim narapela. Mi ting olsem dispela kain tingting em bai sotim bikpela wokmak we Tok Pisin na Tok Motu iken inapim long litiretia na literesi sapos yumi traim long wok wantaim.
Narapela nek em olsem “Tok Pisin em i gutpela long toktok na singsing tasol na inogatim rul na grama bilong en na yumi save tromoi long laik bilong yumi iet”. Dispela kain nek em laikim olsem yumi ken tromoi tokpisin nating tasol long tok pilai na autim giaman tingting na ino tok trutru olsem igat wokmak na skul bilong en. Mi ting olsem dispela em soim les pasin long traim bilong lainim gut na stretim Tok Pisin long ikampam gutpela moa iet.
Tasol em i tok tru olsem “Tok Pisin i stap long tang na long han bilong ol pipol” na long tingting bilong mi ating moa beta yumi ol raita wok wantaim suga-tang na hanmak bilong yumi iet long traim kirapim tingting bilong mipela igo long narapela gutpela rot long strongim kalsa bilong yumi.
Sampela taim mi save tingting olsem nogut igatim sampela kain kastam i pasim maus bilong yumi long raitim tingting, stori na tok-singsing bilong yumi long Tok Pisin, Tok Motu na Tok Ples.
Sapos tumbuna i putim itambu long wok wantaim tokples orait moa beta long tokaut na tokstret long dispela mak, olsem yumi putim tanget long noken abrusim giraun bilong en.
Sapos inogat itambu orait em istap olsem wok bilong mipela ol raita long stap olsem ol lain bilong luksave, kirapim na kamautim ol stori bilong yumi iet long putim Tok Pisin, Tok Mout na Tok Ples igo het. Tok Inglis ating yumi olgeta igat laik long em na istap long skul na wok na long bungim ol narapela pipol. Emi gutpela tu long lainim.
Sapos ol sampela i pilim olsem emi hatwok tumas na hetipen tumas long raitim Tok Pisin na Tok Motu na tu long tanim tok orait dispela luksave long ol iet em tu emi gutpela long wanem wok bilong raita ino wok we olgeta man-meri igat laik long mekim na yumi noken givim hevi igo long ol lain i les long wok.
Wantaim dispela tingting tu imas igat sampela gutpela luksave igo long ol raita bilong yumi. Ol dispela lain i mekim wok bilong kastam na kalsa bilong yumi long em bai kirap na igo pas long narapela ples griaun, na istap iet long narapela taim, na moa iet, em bai makim olsem yumi stap nau ibin wanem kain lain tru long dispela ples giraun Papua Niugini.
Long 2015 Crocodile Prize ibin igat wanwan raita i luksave olsem ol tumbuna tokples bilong yumi bai lus igo pinis na ikirapim tingting bilong kisim Tok Pisin na Tok Ples igo bek gen long skul wok. Dispela luksave olsem ol tokples bai lus igo pinis istap long olgeta kantri na ino asua bilong nau tasol.
Tasol igat narapela lain raita ibin tok strong olsem dispela kain Tok Ples skul inogat gutpela wokmak na bai ino inap halavim ol sumatin long resis long bikpela ples giraun long taim bilong painim wok na kamapim gutpela sindaun.
Mi iet mi sanap namel long ol dispela tupela tingting bilong wanem mi iet mi save tasol long tokinglis, na tu mi pinisim wokmak bilong mi long dispela Tok Inglis. Tasol mi lukim naispela hanmak na gutpela bel tingting i kirap taim wanwan ol wanwok raita bilong mi i raitim tok-singsing na tromoi tok ples bilong yumi iet. Dispela em i wokmak bilong nesenol litiretia long kamapim. Em iken karim gutpela kaikai long nesenol literesi.
Bai yumi mas traim bungim tingting gen na stori long sampela niupela rot, na inoken pasim dua nating long ol sampela gutpela tingting na luksave long narapela rot bilong nesenol wokabaut.
Em i tru olsem sampela tok ples bilong yumi bai idai igo pinis tasol dispela inoken mekim yumi lusim strongpela tingting long holim pasim ol gutpela kastam na kalsa we istap insait long tokples bilong yumi iet.
Sapos mipela lusim ol dispela stori, kastam na kalsa bai yumi stap olsem ol lus prut long ples graun na bai lusim tingting olsem mipela Papua Niugini ibin sanap strong long mak bilong miplea iet.
Taim mi bin painim aut olsem Tok Pisin, Tok Motu na Tok Ples igatim liklik mak tasol long Crocodile Prize, emi olsem mi ino inap long harim kundu na garamut bilong yumi iet. Na mi bin igat askim olsem, long wanem kain nek bai yumi harim gut tru na luksave taim yumi ridim ol dispela wok literitia, we mipela iken pilim swit moa iet na mekim sampela danis.
Papua Niugini igatim kundu na garamut bilong pairapim long danis bilong yumi iet. Mipela inap long kirapim gen.
Vernacular traces in the Crocodile Prize: (5) Perhaps custom shuts our mouth
Translation is a headache-inducing activity and it is likely that many writers don’t like, don’t want or don’t know how to translate their writing. Unlike English, many of our indigenous languages don’t have established grammars and associated rules regarding writing. And we tend to speak and write Tok Pisin according to our own rules, habits and preferences.
Nevertheless, I can see that within their poem’s writers have no problem including parables, metaphors and all kinds of stories when they write in English, but have difficulty in effectively translating Tok Pisin ideas, metaphors and such. English still has a way to go to deal with our Tok Pisin thoughts and ideas, doesn’t it?
For this reason, I have been trying to translate some of my poems – which look and sound good in Tok Pisin. Two illustrations of this kind of effort can be found in Jimmy Awagl’s poem, ‘Ol man-meri bilong back page’ and Dolorose Atai Wo’otong’s ‘Perfect Gentleman’. I’ve been scratching my head wondering why other writers tried their hand at writing in Tok Pisin and Tok Ples but were not interested in the 2016 Crocodile Prize.
Raymond Sigimet is one poet and writer who has written poems in Tok Pisin and translated them into English and there are others who have written Tok Pisin poems in the PNG Poetry Facebook page.
It’s true that Tok Pisin and Motu are not capable of recording and reporting some technical, scientific and high-level educational work – and the same can be said of our indigenous languages. So how are we going to pass on and help everyone to understand all the new and different kinds of knowledge that is being created nowadays?
In our literature we have ancient tales, modern stories and drama, and in all kinds of news and information media and basic education we make the mistake of forgetting two of our national languages. There are plenty of examples, as I have described herein, of Tok Pisin and Tok Ples in our literature. Shouldn’t we think more about promoting and using them?
I think that while there is, undoubtedly, a big role for Tok Pisin and Motu in our literature – and in literacy programs generally, we don’t do enough to promote them.
One mistake we make is to downplay the value and usefulness of Tok Pisin by saying that it belongs to ordinary, grassroots people only. This has the effect of disparaging us by suggesting that we have to use other languages to acquire a higher order of knowledge. This kind of thinking ignores how Tok Pisin and Motu can and should be used for literary and literacy purposes – if only we could try harder.
Some people say that Tok Pisin is only good for talking and singing because it has no grammar and we use it only when we want to. This kind of thinking suggests that Tok Pisin is used only for play talk and jokes – which is not true because it is used in published works and is regarded and taught as a language in its own right. This kind of thinking also dissuades us from trying to establish Tok Pisin properly in its rightful place.
It is also true that ‘Tok Pisin is in the tongues and hands of everyone’ which makes me think that we writers should work together through our words and writings to strengthen our thinking about how to build, strengthen and promote our culture.
Sometimes, I have to remind myself that there is no rule or law which stops us from writing our ideas, stories and poems in Tok Pisin, Motu and our mother tongues. Certainly, if our forefathers had banned using or writing Tok Ples, we would need to publicise this rule, establish boundaries and avoid breaching them.
In the absence of any ban, it is beholden upon we writers to continue to devise and publish our stories in Tok Pisin, Motu and our mother tongues. English still has its place in school and work and when meeting people from other places – and remains important to learn.
If some of us feel that it is too hard and gives us headaches to write in Tok Pisin and Motu and to translate from one language to another, we have to acknowledge that. And even though some writers find it so, this is not a reason to criticize them so that they stop writing.
Indeed, it is important that our writers are recognized for what they do. Their writing about our customs and culture is read in other places beyond Papua New Guinea, will last for a long time and reminds us that we are the one true people of Papua New Guinea.
In the 2015 Crocodile Prize there were some writers who recognized that some of our ancient languages might become extinct and supported the notion that Tok Pisin and indigenous languages should be taught, and used as mediums for instruction at school. (The fact that indigenous languages are becoming extinct is an issue of concern in many countries (Australia included) and not just in Papua New Guinea.)
On the other hand, there were other writers who argued strongly that using indigenous languages in this way would not help young people to succeed when they venture out into the world to find a good job and establish a satisfying and fulfilling life.
I stand somewhere between these two schools of thought, mainly because I speak and write my poems and stories in English. That said, I can see good examples and thinking from my fellow writers who write their stories and poems in their mother tongue. This is and will be, I hope, an essential feature of our ever-emerging national literature – and will provide ongoing sustenance for our national literacy.
So, we must try to combine our thinking about a new way forward. We must not shut the door to the good thinking about, and acknowledgement of another potential road in our national journey.
While it is true that some of our indigenous languages may well become extinct, this is no reason to stop thinking about preserving and sustaining the customs and culture as expressed in and through our own languages.
Finding only a few works in Tok Pisin, Motu and indigenous languages in the Crocodile Prize, meant that I couldn’t hear our kundus and garamuts properly – which elicited the question about what makes us hear and understand clearly when we read literature and what makes us feel so good and want to dance.
Papua New Guinea has kundus and garamuts which provide the beat for our own dance – and we are more than capable of playing them again.