Recalling the day I met Daniel Kumbon, one of PNG’s prominent writers

Richard Napam

As he entered the Ribito Restaurant in Waigani, I could recognize him instantly. He had his bilum hat and his long beard which I saw on the cover of his books and in pictures.

Daniel Kumbon (right) with me, second from right, inside the Ribito Restaurant in Waigani, Port Moresby.

Daniel and his friend placed their lunch orders and chatted away two tables from me.

I purchased a copy each of all his books from the restaurant some time ago and the restaurant staff had informed me that Daniel regularly visited the restaurant. I enjoyed his books so much that I frequently visited the restaurant thereafter in the hopes that I would get a chance to meet the famous author.  

I finally caught him last Saturday as he entered the restaurant. I could hardly contain the excitement of meeting Daniel Kumbon, the famous Papua New Guinean author and journalist.

However, I did not have the courage to approach him for a chat. I waited for them to finish their meal. Even after the staff cleared their table, I didn’t know how to approach the man who wrote seven books.

Then I had an idea. I called the beautiful female staff over and asked for a help.

After she talked to Daniel, he turned to me and the prominent writer’s eyes met mine. I walked over to him and introduced myself briefly.

Before we realized, our conversation shot to the tops of Mt Giluwe. We talked like old friends. He was like a father to me.

We talked for a long time. Kumbon was generous enough to share not only his time but two of his best writing advice with me.

“Son write clearly and be brief,” he advised me.

I later confirmed this with an internet source. Great writers like Shakespeare wrote very simple sentences and wrote clearly and concisely.

“Write in the mornings,” he added. “Your mind is fresh in the mornings and undisturbed.”

When I said I was writing a novel, he was pleased.

“I’d like to read the first chapter of it,” he said.

But my greatest surprise came when he said he was giving me a copy of his latest book.

“I have been keeping the book for a friend but I will give it to you now,” he said.

He immediately left the restaurant to get the book for me.

When he was gone, I was thinking, ‘How could this senior writer do such a huge favor to me, a stranger?’

Daniel, that was a beautiful thing you have done to me. I won’t forget that moment.

He returned later with the book titled, “Legend Of The Miok Egg’. He signed his autograph on the back of the front cover and added a short phrase below his signature: ‘Memories are forever’.

What a beautiful phrase, Daniel? I am still thinking of that phrase. A whole story could be written about it.

Kumbon encouraged me to keep on writing. He said, “Write for those who are not able to write for themselves. Be their voice. Leave something behind for the next generation.”

Before we left, I asked if I could take a selfie with him. I checked my smartphone and was disappointed to learn the battery was off. Daniel took out a small canon camera from his basket and clicked several selfies.

In the afternoon he emailed me the photos.

“The photo quality is not good,” he said in the email, “but don’t worry. It’s still us.”

I emailed him the first chapter of my novel the next day. He read it and came back with a very constructive feedback. His suggestions to improve the manuscript were invaluable.

Daniel is an amazing writer. If you would like to buy a Daniel Kumbon book, you can check the Ribito Restaurant at Waigani Central, Port Moresby. Several copies of Daniel’s books are available there.

Daniel, thank you for the chat. You made my day. I went away with beautiful memories.

‘Memories are forever’.

About the author: I graduated from the University Of Papua New Guinea with a Bachelor of Economics in 2016. Currently, I am working as an economist with the Bank of Papua New Guinea. I am revising my first novel. I am also working on another two novels at the moment. I aim to publish my debut novel early next year.

Richards very encouraging email to Ples Singsing

Dear Mastermind Team,

Thank you for creating this wonderful platform for Papua New Guinean writers. This is a great initiative! PNG writers now have Ples Singsing to share our stories and thoughts with readers. 

I am very happy that you will publish my story. Thank you very much.

Thank you also for wishing me well in my writing career. Truly appreciated. 

I have started writing three years ago. As you have said, I realize writing demands a lot of hard work, sacrifice and mental and imaginative labor. I realized that writing is hard but the only way to get out of that difficulty is to write my way out. 

It is just intimidating to have the blank page staring at you when you start out to write. Many people have great ideas in their heads but only a few (those who have the courage to beat the blank page) have their stories written down in a book. This is pure creativity.

I believe we can write and move nations. PNG has beautiful stories to tell the world. Our stories can float across oceans and inspire millions across the globe.

I am working on the sixth draft of my first novel. I see the challenges of writing, revising, writing and rewriting are there, but I don't have a choice. I have decided to write so I am taking up the pen, again, every time I am challenged to put it down. We, as writers are in the same boat. But if we do not write, then who is going to write? 

Thanks a lot,
Richard Napam

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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