Brothers, sisters and colleagues
From highlands, coastals, islands and swamps
In 22 provinces and 180 dialects
When a matter of national interest
We stand upright in unity
We showcase our national colors each year
With 180 rhythms display our love of unity
Blue mountains to shining coast across islands
A sense of unity spreads drawing hearts bind
We stand for unity in heart
We understood and interpret as "Wanbel Pasin"
Our land , seas and country turning another year old
And it's people standing in unity
As forefather did we do and will always
In bright colors open hearts and out stretched arms
We as nation of PNG stand in unity
Ten years ago on September 15 the inaugural Crocodile Prize awards ceremony was held at the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby. That was the first time I met Francis.
Ples Singsing is inspired by his selfless example as a senior writer, poet, essayist, editor and publisher who helped many PNG writers from Simbu achieve their dreams of presenting their work and publishing their own books.
I remember Francis Nii and this happening right here is not a fanciful dream, we keep it real.
Yesterday we dreamed
It was not so long ago
less even than a lifetime or so
when our nation was so young
and our history had just begun
Then, they stood them all
and blessed us
with an anthem song
We forward went, hither sent
each tribe and clan
in this proud Melanesian land
every son and daughter born
united we did stand
with transient shackles shorn
as a new day did dawn
Did then we dare to dream
and transcend as one
Have our ancestors been told
how far we have come?
What do we tell of,
what praise, what glory,
that children will hear
as pleasant bedtime stories?
Our Guardians now indulge
in self-serving histrionics
while idle sons
and beleaguered daughters
survive on informal economics
Where now, the integrity of Chiefs
that they may bless us truly
where too, the vigor of youth
that will ensure a victory?
How now our mothers and children
bear the brunt of brutality
when we fail to act rightly
What future lies in our hands?
Who will fulfill this people’s destiny?
O arise all ye sons of this land
Let us sing of our joy to be free…
Only yesterday we dreamed
Let us sleep no more
Penned September, 23 2007, published in Oh Arise! (2014) and available online at Amazon
Papua New Guinea
A Nation of thousand tribes
A nation of nations
United Papua New Guinea
In Unity, a nation is built
With trust, late Sir Grand Chief was entrusted
To take this land from Colonizers
And name it the Beloved Papua New Guinea
So these children can call it the home
Even in his absence, He is watching its children dancing,
Singing Nation’s Anthem with PASSION, DIGNITY and PRIDE
“We are Papua New Guinea!”
“We are Independent and We Are Free!”
Let the voice of thousands tribes be heard
Singing songs, dancing and celebrating
As we miss the dear voice of Sana on this golden day for the first time
He is listening!
As we chuntering in melody
Thanking God and His eminence wisdom He gave to
Our Founding Fathers
From the highland to the lowlands
Let the voice of oneness be heard
And to the coastal and islands
In solidarity we are one nation, one country, one people
One more time again
We are growing older, wiser and stronger
Come ye the Kumul
Let it fly higher, higher than it was
Higher above the Mountain tops
Show to the nations, we are one people, one country
And shout to the world,
We are Papua New Guinea!
Happy 46th Birthday Papua New Guinea!
By Thousands we are
Hundreds of Islands scattered across,
the silky blue surface of the Pacific Ocean
Mountain ranges stood tall and proud like a King
Crowned with rare jewel of untouched virgin forests and
Clothed with the royal robe of endemic flora and fauna
By Thousands we are
Tribes sparsely scattered across the land
like a broken pieces of a bottle
Going from the highlands to the Islands
And from the Lowlands to the coast
By Thousands we are
Who would have thought we could come together?
Who would have thought Freedom was Calling?
Impossible it seemed
But not to Him
The Man who wanted freedom for his land
By Thousands we are
Colourful headdresses dancing on top of our heads
The beat of Kundu drums echoing throughout the land
And the joyful singing and dancing poured out the land
September 16, 1975
The Day Freedom arrived on OUR shores
The Land of a Thousand Tribes, United.
By Thousands we are
And One was chosen
What extraordinary capability the Man must have possessed
Leading the Land he loved so dearly to Freedom
If he should be described let it be
Courageous and Patriotic.
Genuine and Charismatic.
And a thousand more words.
From the Thousand words, one word is Him
That is Him, the ‘Peacemaker’
A Great Chief
A True Patriotic and
A wise Man
By Thousands we are
Divided by tribes and culture, languages and ideologies
Now we stand together as One
The true black, white, yellow and red, Fly high and proud
The land cried out with a grateful Heart
To Honor the great Man, who brought freedom to this Land
By Thousands we are
And ‘SANA’ Unites us
We are truly one is a Thousand
And a Thousand in One
Can never be more grateful to
The Father of this Nation
The Late Grand Chief, Sir Michael Thomas Somare, for
A Free and United Thousands we are
Growing up with a father who is an agriculture extension officer, I have witnessed and have seen the day to day significant challenges of delivering farmer trainings in rural villages with limited or nil resources.
In Kaiapit in Markham where agriculture extension is active, officers still go out to teach farmers and serve the people.
As seen in the photographs above this training was basically to train farmers to grow rice and other crops like cucumbers, watermelon and Chinese cabbages in the off season.
NARI through Taiwan ICDF supplied seedlings and also gave a rice milling machine for the farmers to use.
This kind of training is important as it can guide farmers to meet targets like how many kilograms of rice to harvest and the expected quality during harvest time.
When farmers are empowered with relevant knowledge and skill, they are better placed to see where value chain meets the supply chain.
These are little things but they are very very important at the grass root farmer level. This kind of training coupled with specific others can have a remarkable improvement on the lives of farmers. It can also encourage farmers to go down the food chain and diversify in the sale of their produce.
This means getting enough quality and scale right to meet the consistent quality required and premium markets desired which is the bigger picture.
Farmers always welcome this kind of training with gratitude and humility to learn.
Dad told me that they enjoyed a hearty meal of taro creamed in gur(claypot) and chicken with the farmers after the training.
This is also an opportunity for the Taiwanese officials to learn about peoples livelihood, culture and the language of Markham people which is important part of people to people connection and public diplomacy in practice.
And collaborations like this is the way forward in agriculture extension at the district level. Investing in rural agriculture is key to improve farmer knowledge and skills and meeting key expectations along the value and supply chain. It is also significant for peoples livelihood sustenance.
I am taking your sister out of the sky
To hold her in my hand and show my son
He watches you with saucers in his eyes
Wide-eyed, tracing your whakapapa lines
Across the black black skies far from earth
Your sister, she is burning a hole in my flesh
It melts while I am caught in her trance
This tiny star, ‘Etu Iti, is a cosmic gift
Light that was sent thousands of years ago
When only Papuans and Yankunytjatjara
Were trekking in the highlands and deserts
‘Etu Iti where have you been, what sees you?
Who have you guided home or led astray
With your heavenly rise and rhythmic fall?
Whose constellation do you play with in the solstice?
Tautoru, Mataali’i, Te Matau a Maui
Are they your playmates?
Or do you instead
Prefer to follow the ocean tides and swells?
Watch the people with their busy busy lives
Always looking down, feet on the ground
A poem from My Grandfather is a Canoe, published in July 2021 by Flying Geese Productions
I lay covered in my green dress my favorite, yes! shades of green cover my skin
fern green laces tickle my chin forest green neckline is keen show off my beautiful sleeves myrtle green mountain peaks rush down the flat grassland you will find my warm body beneath cool mints of pool
my waist is covered under green fibers my arms spread open like welcoming mother my legs cross and soak in aquamarine seawater
LISTEN! Someone’s tearing my green dress pulling off the hem
He’s not my wantok so I’ll tokaut The stranger I’m in danger
Stop tearing my green dress It’s my priceless green dress twisted and twinned with fibers of pine
viridian and persian teal, turquoise, tanned light green, moss green midnight green, lawn green, screamin, thyme and lime
MY GRANDFATHER IS A CANOE was published in July of this year and is the first solo book by Samoan wayfinding poetess Faumuina Felolini Maria Tafuna’i, published under Flying Geese Pro. Felolini’s very first appearance as a poet in print was in ‘Fika – a fictional body of new writing by First Draft Pasefika writers’ (2008), along with a group of Pacific Island writers under the banner of Pacific Arts Creative New Zealand. Her poems also featured in ‘dried grass over rough-cut logs’, by this author in 2020, published by late PNG poet and essayist Francis Nii.
Faumuina is her chief name, signifying a ‘high chief’ in the Samoan tradition. Tafuna’i is the surname of her late husband. She lives in Christchurch New Zealand with her son Oliver.
Faumuina is a waka sailor who adheres to the traditional knowledge and skill of Wayfinding under the tutelage of navigator Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr from Aotearoa (New Zealand). From many guiding conversations with and by voyaging on the ocean on traditional sailing canoes, Faumuina created a dynamic wayfinding model that has become the lens for all the design work for her company, Flying Geese Pro. She created the model to design better aid and development programmes because she saw that the models used in the Pacific were outdated and biased against our cultural values and ways of being. Faumuina has now developed Wayfinding models for business, strategic planning, and suicide prevention. It was this model that led her to become an Edmund Hillary Fellow. Through this Fellowship, she is able to collaborate with other innovators and entrepreneurs.
A journalist and media worker in the development arena, Faumuina has recited her poems on many occasions, including ‘I see you’ which was written and presented in Goroka. In 2014 two of her poems, namely ‘I see you’ and ‘Mary and the Fe’e’, were featured on Keith Jackson & Friends: PNG Attitude blog. The first poem had a PNG story to go with it, and provided more reason for this poem to be a personal favourite. Now I am very glad to see the poem included in her recent published collection (Also below). Here is the story related to me by Faumuina in December 2014.
“When I was at UOG, there was a point where four women were on stage – Mama Daisy and three academics, with one being an anthropologist who had worked with Mama Daisy and Bena for 20 years. A comment from one of the audience members (a PNG academic based in Moresby) said “I see three women on stage” and proceeded to compliment them about their work. She did not “see” Mama Daisy. I felt for Mama Daisy, and thought of my own mother so afterwards I interviewed her and wrote my poem, which I performed at the end of my presentation. Ladies from Bena gave me bilum as a thank you and we all became fast friends. So far, the poem is unpublished.”
After receiving gifted copies of the book by post earlier this month, I sent Faumuina six interview questions for her to provide us with some insight into poetry, writing and her approach to this skill and art that we enjoy, and the creative products that we cherish.
How does it feel now to have published your own book and what have been some of the reactions you have had from your readers? It feels amazing. It feels like destiny fulfilled, especially in what my late mother would have wanted for me. In terms of reactions from my readers, they have been really affirming. Some have wept and laughed with the poems. A friend had his son read poems out loud at the breakfast table. A former NZ Prime Minister emailed me saying it gave her insight into the world of voyaging and who I am. Other people have talked to me about the poems I wrote about the loss of our loved ones, and how it put words to feelings they felt but could not express. A client told me she had read the poem I wrote for my son to her network because it was a powerful expression of what it means to be a parent. One of the reactions that I’ve also had within my immediate family is to have my nieces and nephews look at the book and understand what is possible for them to achieve. That has real meaning for me.
There’s a description about the books’ creation, which will be part of our article on your work, but I want to hear about your process, why and how you do what you do. You started writing poems as a teen but really got into poetry later in youth. Tell us about your approach to writing poems and why poetry is important to you.
My poems often come to me in a waterfall of words. Sometimes I’m woken by a poem and I have to turn on the light and write it down. What I find is that I’ve been thinking about this poem for days, weeks sometimes, maybe even years. What my mind has done is assembled all these words together. I do very little editing. I also write poems as gifts dedicated to friends, family, people I’ve met. They are often a reflection of our relationship. A keepsake.
My approach to writing poetry; I try not to be preachy though I do want to release what is deep within me and hope there’s some resonance in the audience. That said, I don’t think you should write for the audience. I think that it’s important for the craft to be sincerely yourself and write for yourself. Poetry is important to me because it helps me better understand who I am. It also heals me. It helps me let go of negative stuff that is holding me back and celebrate the good stuff. Also, I write when I’m pissed off at people and events – so it’s a great pressure valve.
To me words are like paint, and I get to paint poetic landscapes, cartoons, portraits and abstract ideas. Poetry has also given me a place to put pain. The greatest pain I’ve ever felt was in the loss of my husband. Poetry gave me a place to put that pain and help me grieve. It also gave me a chance to document all my experiences good and bad such as the poem of me stumbling around in a police cell. I don’t want to deny parts of myself that are less shiny. Through poetry I get to embrace the challenge and complexity of being me.
You name Tusiata Avia and Konai Helu Thaman as influences on you taking up poetry as a mode of expressing yourself. Are there particular poets, poems or elements of poetry that attract your interest as a creative person? Tusiata and Konai opened the door for me and showed me that poetry could have Pacifica accents and rhythms, it could be about Pacifica lives, of hibiscus, of island lovers, and wild dogs. Before that I only found Pacific stories in academic texts and history books. Another poet who has influenced me is Michael Dom, whose passion and candour has helped me understand and embrace my poetry. He can be a blunt bugger but he’s honest, and I prefer blunt over polite and indifferent. Being Samoan and growing up in New Zealand, I have had the greatest pleasure in hearing Samoan and Maori orators use poetry in their speeches. In that respect, my father, Mau’u Lopeti, was my first influential poet.
One of the elements I enjoy about poetry is the efficiency of it. That with only a few words much can be expressed.
As a communications and media professional you have travelled globally and had the opportunity to mix with creative people of different cultures. How relevant is poetry today and what has been your experience when sharing your poems? In my work, I often have opportunities to speak in front of large audiences. But often I am not given very long to speak about complex topics. So, I started writing and reciting poetry for these fora. When I recite a poem, that poem is authentic, it’s real, it’s not part of some marketing spiel. I also try to incorporate local languages in these poems. These poems then become a point of connection for the audience and for me. One thing I notice is that people remember me and remember the poem, which is a pretty great thing when you are trying to make an impression.
You are familiar with some PNG writing through the Crocodile Prize and PNG Attitude. What comments can you make about writing you've read in each of the three major genres, fiction, essay and poem?
Two things I note in the writings I've read from The Crocodile Prize and PNG Attitude are earnestness and tenacity. PNG writers have taken on the mantle of holding the government accountable, holding community leadership accountable. Through poetry, through essays and fictional works, writers are holding up a mirror to life in Papua New Guinea. I think these are incredibly important responsibilities in the literary sector. I also have read some of the best descriptions of the natural world in PNG poems. Another aspect in the sector I am a bit envious of is unshackled freedom of who gets to publish. In New Zealand, publishing is still dominated by mainstream publishing businesses. The result of that is that sometimes they may look at someone like me, a Samoan female poet and say, oh we have enough of those. So, we can be left on the other side of the gate and what I like is that within Papua New Guinea, there is no gate. That's freaking awesome.
What are three points of advice you would give someone wanting to write a poem or poetry and become a poet?
My three pointers;
The poem must be independent of the poet. It is its own offering and the quality of it is all contained within the poem. And so, in some ways you know, awards be damned. Acclaim be damned. It’s really about the poem.
Write for writing’s sake. Figure out what’s your best time, your best environment to write. Writing is a creative pursuit, a pursuit that requires practice. And so, I would say just write, and remember the joy of writing. Hold on to that joy.
Write about what you know, what you have lived, what you have observed.
I see youFor Mama Daisy Meko Samuel
I see you mother with no husband
I see your born son
I see your grown son
I see you provider
I see you humble
I see you kiss goodbye
I see you in Berlin
I see you adopt a daughter
I see her a new sister
I see you destroyed
I see you rebuild
I see you guardian
I see you Bena
I see you Napamogona
I see you Mama Daisy
I see my late husband
I see me and us
You are my eyes
Artists have always played an important role in societies, both traditional and modern. The works of one kind of artist are collectively known as literature. Every society, culture, country has its own literary tradition and its own collection of literature. Thus, we can speak and read of American Literature, English Literature, Australian Literature or Papua New Guinean Literature. Perhaps, the significance of literature in a society can be grasped from the fact that there has never been a society without a literary tradition, whether oral or written. The world is created by the writer, based on his/her experiences and observations of the real world that he/she lives in. Thus, this paper surveys the important years in PNG history within the realm of literature and its growth, and some of the early publications by Papua New Guinean writers.
Papua New Guinea Literature is diverse as much as the cultures and traditions of the country. Stephan Bernard Minol once described PNG literature as “Truth- Telling, Myth-Making, and Mauswara.” The description obviously highlights the point that our stories tell a proper, all-encompassing national story. It is also shown that PNG writer’s had reasons to write. They aimed to search for identity and is embedded in many of the themes in the stories that have been written down today.
Before independence, Papua New Guinea (PNG) was a colony to few European countries and was once owned and ruled by Australian. Prior to the sudden excessive flooding of explorers, traders, missionaries, administrative officers and entrepreneurs, there was little indication of the feelings and response of the Papua New Guinean indigenous towards the colonization they experienced in relation to literature and cultures. Thus, they remained silent with not knowing where to expose the bias of the European discourse.
The successful journey of Papua New Guinean writers emerged with the establishment of the University of Papua New Guinea (1964) with creative writing course being offered and considered an academic subject as well as the arrival of Ulli Beier as the creative patron professor. In the development of the indigenous contemporary literature, Beier played a significant role in encouraging and motivating the Papua New Guinean writers and making their work publishable and available to the public.
Birth of PNG Writers
Between the 1968 and 1973, indigenous writers emerged as a political weapon in protest against the imperial powers’ colonization and injustice treatment. There are actually other books written by Papua New Guinean writers and most of them used metaphors in their writing to illustrate and compare the anticolonial sentiments and bias given by their colonizers and even to raise their voices in protest against the unfair treatments from the Australian Colonization.
The forthcoming of the first writers was led by Albert Maori Kiki (AMK), who emerged as the PNG’s own path breaker to the indigenous literature. In bringing his biography to publication, AMK was assisted and encouraged by UIIi Beier, a catalyst in the development of contemporary indigenous who arrived in PNG in 1967 and played a significant role in encouraging and assisting young Png Writers to make their work publishable. Albert Maori Kiki’s autobiography (Ten thousand years in a life time, 1968) eventually, gives rise to the birth of indigenous writers. Albert Maori Kiki’s autobiography in its simplest and directive form revealed something about an indigenous Papuan boy born to a traditional lifestyle and was brought into the world of the whites and a record also on the record of disappearing traditional culture and a commentary on a colonial regime.
Another milestone for PNG in the realm of literature in the late 1970 was the publication of a well-written and pleasant novel ‘Crocodile’ by Vincent Eri. In its political content, the novel simply demonstrates the clash of cultures in which the PNG indigenous was manipulated and mislead by the white men as superior and indigenous as inferior
Most of the PNG writers emerged from The University of Papua New Guinea (first graduates, 1970). Upng has been a training ground and the environment to indigenous writers. Some of the writers came from other schools like Goroka Teachers College and the 4 national high schools (Kerevat, Sogeri, Passam and Pomnaths) along with few public servants and others.
In much of the indigenous writings, most of them aimed at the search for their identities and expose the bias colonization of the colonizers. For example, ‘Wait Dok na Black Dog’ by Leo Saulep, with its light but telling thrust at Australian colonialism. There are other poems that mocked the Australian colonialism that are featured in Kovave and other indigenous published books.
The growth of PNG literature at a more populist level, had had some counterpart in the presentation of the three notable Pidgin/English national newspaper: Pangu Nius (first issue, Apriln1970), Bougainville Nius (first issue, 1970) and Wantok (published by Wirui Press [catholic mission], first issue, August 1970). These national newspaper acts as means of people to express their opinions via letters to the editor and are geared to the local audience.
New Guinea journal of literature (Kovave) and other publications
Just a year after Kiki’s autobiography was published by Cheshirebin in 1968, a journal of New Guinea literature known as ‘ Kovave’ appeared in 1969 under the editorship of Ulli and was published by Jacaranda Press alongside the New Guinea Cultural center of the UPNG. The kovave journal was a collection of creative writings written in both English and Pidgin, traditional folk tales, poetry being translated, as well as few literary criticism and notes on traditional art. The first four series featured in the journal have included stories by PNG’s own writers namely; Vincent Eri, John Kadiba, Kumalau Tawali, Peter Lus, Wairu Degoba, John Waiko, as well as the cook islander Marjorie Crocombe, Maurice Thompson and Lazarus Lami Lami. Poems featured in the journal are written by Pokwari Kale, Tawali, Allan Natachee and the Indian Chakravarthi; plays by Leo Hanneth, Waiko, Rabbie Namaliu, and Arthur Jawodimbari. As well as traditional translations of folklore and poems by Maori Kiki, Don Laycock and others, and a critique of the poetry of Natachee- the first Papuan poet ever to get into print-by Beier (Kovave ceased publication in 1947).
Besides, Kovave there are several other book being published that are educational, inspirational and entertaining that were published by the Kristen Press in Madang by Papua New Guineans along with creative writing center courses and workshops for writers, translators and editors. The Bureau of Literature assisted with the publication of a low-cost quarterly New Guinea Writing as well as organizing residential creative writing courses and has sponsored literary competitions.
Papua New Guinea Literature acts as a forum for reflection on world and even domestic from the stand point of PNG. Through PNG literature, we have the gift of the written word and the privilege of being free. We can reflect on our ancient past and the modern life. We can have responsibility to ourselves and to the world to bring to the world the treasure of our civilization. For far too long we have known ourselves through books written by others.
It is a sadden truth that PNG literature are dying out in the recent era because of the failure of not publishing them and also Papua New Guineans have been lazy to write their thoughts and perspectives on specific areas as well as their own country. It is vital for PNG writers to write or record something worth readable of their traditional cultures before they fall apart, because there is no doubt that Papua New Guineans will greatly benefit from this, especially the upcoming generations of our country. Additionally, we can marvel at the wonderful rich writing which was signaled a time for renaissance in PNG literature, which had been on the brink of collapse. It is of significant that our oral literature and culture must be preserved or we watch it die in the next 20 years.
I pay tribute to PNG’s writers who have taken up the noble profession of writing and to expose and portray truest writing of PNG’s culture and to out an end to the misconception and misinterpretation of the outside world to PNG. What an encouragement this was and will be for the upcoming writers of PNG to follow in the footsteps and to keep promoting PNG indigenous literature. It made a more noble profession for upcoming PNG writers starting from small traditional stories and folktales to bigger achievements on the field of literature. It is hoped that through forum such as Ples Singsing, Papua New Guineans will be honestly presented and exposed to other foreign countries as well as Melanesian countries.