Bernard Narokobi – Leader, Legislator, Literatus

28 October 2020


Port Moresby

In 1995 when Bernard Narokobi was minister for agriculture, he, Bart Philemon and Jerry Nalau voted against Prime Minister Julius Chan’s proposed bill for an Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Governments. Given the ongoing conflict in Bougainville and violent bid for secession there, the three Ministers feared that the bill’s proposed centralization of power in the national government (and particularly the provincial governor’s office), pulling it away from the local level governments, gave more motivation for other regions to push for autonomy. Following the vote, Prime Minister Chan sacked all three of them from his cabinet. After his sacking, Narokobi penned this poem, In Memory of My Sacking as Minister, on a piece of scrap paper. Here it is reproduced:

J.C. is my shepherd, I am sacked.
He maketh me to lie down on my back
He leadeth me besides the fallen kina,
He threatened me to vote against my conscience,
With demand to resign 8.30 am.
He leadeth me to the path of destruction for his Party’s sake;
Yea, though I walk in the vales of doubt and despair
I fear no evil!
Nor C.J.
Though Politicians and Profiteers may scare me,
And present me a loss of a well earned salary,
And whilst my costs
Runneth higher and higher.
My Kina Wiz Kid
Answers my Kina falleth lower and lower.
Surely unemployment and poverty will follow me,
All the days of his maladministration.
Surely expenses, corruption, greed and selfishness shall swell,
While virtue and righteousness shall dwindle.
All the days, all the days of Papa paulim pikinini’s reign.
Surely the lawyers, the costly lawyers shall ensure,
All my ancient inheritance
And all me and mine
Shall dwell in a mortgaged and remortgaged house
For ever and ever.
Thanks be to IMF & WB.

The poem is a diatribe against what Narokobi perceived to be poor decision making by the Chan government. It points to the leadership traits that he felt were lacking in some of his colleagues and that he himself tried to adhere to, as well as airing his frustration at the consequences he faced for his uncompromising stance. The poem showcases his wisdom and wit and also shows how Narokobi used writing in part as an emotional outlet.


Gregory Bablis (2020) ‘Which Way?’ Big Man, Road Man, Chief: Bernard Narokobi’s Multifaceted Leadership Career, The Journal of Pacific History, 55:2, 291-303, DOI: 10.1080/00223344.2020.1760086

Please follow this link to read the journal article in its entirety. 

Legend of the Origin of Coconut

27 October 2020


New Erima Primary School, NCD

Long long ago, there lived a couple and their two sons along the coast of Papua New Guinea.

The two brothers decided to go fishing out at sea one day. They loaded their fishing gears onto their canoe and departed. The brothers fished all day until late in the afternoon when the elder brother finally suggested to his younger brother that they paddle back home since they had caught a lot of fish by then. But the younger brother insisted on paddling further out to sea to catch some more fish.

So they paddled further away from the coastline to look for yet more fish. While they were busy fishing, the elder brother saw something strange and large in the water moving in on their canoe. It was a shark! Terrified, they began paddling back towards the shore but the shark blocked their way. The elder brother told his younger brother to throw some fish into the water for the shark to eat. He figured they could make their escape while the shark was distracted with eating the fish.

But the shark made quick work of the first batch of fish they threw into the sea then pursued the brothers as they paddled back towards the coastline and blocked their escape again. The brothers threw more fish into the sea and again the shark quickly devoured the fish and continued blocking the brothers’ canoe from reaching the shoreline. They were getting closer to the beach but the same sequence happened a few times until the brothers had no more fish to distract the shark with.

The elder brother then said to his younger brother, “In order for you to survive, you must sacrifice me. Kill me and cut my head off, give my body to the shark and bring my head back home to bury. You must do this or otherwise the both of us will die here.” But the younger brother refused. He did not want to kill his big brother. An argument ensued over what to do, during which time the shark began ramming the brother’s canoe, trying to destroy it and get them in the water where they would be open to its attacks. At last, upon the elder brothers’ insistence, the younger brother reluctantly accepted his brothers’ instructions. He killed his elder brother, cut off his head and threw his body into the sea for the shark to eat. While the shark was busy eating the elder brothers’ body, the younger brother took his elder brothers’ head and paddled back home. The beach was by now just a short distance away.

When he arrived home, his eyes were filled with tears so his parents knew something was not right. They asked him what was wrong and he recounted to them the entire ordeal. Their parents began to wail as the younger brother described what had happened and how the elder brother had sacrificed himself. The family mourned the death of one of their members.  

The very next morning, the younger brother dug a hole beside their house and buried his elder brothers’ head. After a few days, a new plant sprouted on the exact spot where the elder brothers’ head had been buried.

The plant grew bigger and bigger as time passed. But it looked strange indeed, for it was unlike any plant they had seen before. As months and then years passed, the plant grew quite big and tall and bore large hard fruits called coconut.

A coconut fell down from the lofty tree one day and the younger brother collected it to observe what it was like. He held the fruit in his hand, felt its texture then pressed its skin with his thumbs to feel its density. He figured out how to remove the coconuts’ exterior skin and husked it until there was just a strong nut left.

File:Coconut face (2201055109).jpg - Wikimedia Commons

On close inspection, the younger brother could make out humanoid features with two holes lined up horizontally, representing eyes, and one hole situated parallel to the other two, representing a mouth. “Oh my brother!” he gasped and shed tears as he thought about his elder sibling and the sacrifice he made for him just some years ago.

This is the story of how the first coconut came to be on coastal Papua New Guinea.

* Issac is from Central Province and is in Grade 7 (Blue).

Tonight the Moon Carries Her Umbrella

27 October 2020

She rises late in the afternoon

And tonight she carries her umbrella

Smoky tendrils trail behind her glittering sarung kobaya

As she strolls across my universe

Far, far away she walks, alone

Where my arms cannot reach to embrace her

*Dia beranjak keslangan hori ini

Dan molom ini dia membawa payungnya

Gugusan kabut terpapar di balik kilauan sarung keboyanya

Saat dia berjalan melintasi duniaku

Jauh dan semaken jauh dia melongkah sendiri

Dimana tanganku tok bisa menggapoi untuk memeluknya

*Meri ia emi kirap long bikpela apinun

Na long nait emi karim ambrala bilong em

Simuk i aigris bihainim kalakala laplap bilong em

Taim emi wokabaut long heven antap

Longwe turu em iet i wokabaut

Na han bilong mi ino inap long holim pasim em

*Adorai vabura vaburanai upkekeni da etoreisi

Ia na anuaboi ai ena tamaru e abiakau

Ena rami namo hereana na kwalau ese e mata-digara laia bena murina mo e loa

Guba atai ai e loa neganai

Ia na gabu daudau sibona e rakaLau imagu na se gerere ia idogo taona.

Translations: Bahasa by Sylvana Sandi, Tok Pisin by Michael Dom and Hiri Motu by Gemona Konemamata.

Turangu Morie

26 October 2020


Fundraiser by Blake Borham : Funds for PNG #DV Victim Jennelyn Kennedy

You asked me why, why don’t I leave you?
But in the same breath, you walked over and locked the door
My head spun, as blow after blow
You performed me a special number
My own tune that night after night I fell asleep to.

Neim blo yu em bikpla lo PNG
You told me you had many other names too
Elvis Presley, Mr Universe, Mr PNG
Mr Money Bags, Fast and Furious
The ‘Dark Prince’ himself
Bruce Lee.

You lived a deluded dream
A world of your own making
Where you were the president and the king
In your world you had everything
Money still channeled to you through your umbilical chord
Every week, the money flowed in, like a stream.

Friends, man oh man, you had many
Boys, girls, men, women
You’d think you could spare me a friend or two
But no, they just looked on
Or turned a blind eye
As you spewed your hate and bile on me.

But don’t forget, mi tu gat neim na namba
I am the daughter of the 35th President of the US of A
I have family, I have friends
I have benefactors, I have sympathisers
I have a clan, I have a tribe
I am just one girl who lived my own life
But in my death I represent many other girl’s lives.

And so these girls, women and men will march
And they’ll chant a tune of change
A tune that you and ‘monsters’ like you will hear
A tune that even powerful men will fear
I hope the law will treat you fairly
I hope it won’t be as harsh on you as you were on me.

But taim yu go lo bikpla banis
And you face the harshness of Bombexity
You’ll then find out how many real friends you have
You’ll remember my face, my smile
My gentle touch
You’ll remember my kindness and my beauty
But most of all please remember our progeny
For they are the life that you’ve denied me.

This poem first appeared on PNG Attitude on 17 July 2020 at

Yu Lukim Drai Garas Antap Long Ol Rap Kat Diwai

26 October 2020



Yu lukim drai garas antap long rap kat diwai     

Na giraun plo blong haus blong mi

Taim mi opim haus dua long yu

Na yu tingting long yu yet hau yu ken halivim mi.

Na yet …

Mi simelim tuhat blong dispela moning mipela katim kunai garas

Na mi harim ol pikinini wok lap taim ol pilai

Antap long grinpela liklik maunten sait long mitupela

Na mi teistim switpela saua tuhat

Taim mipela wok katim ol diwai i sanap go daun long giraun.

Mi pilim hot blong san wantaim paia lait

Bilong wanem dispela haus i stap drai na karamap

Wantaim bikpela lait blong blu skai antap

Na insait long bikpela tudak blong nait.

Mi tingim bek ol abinun mitupela kaikai kumu

Em dispela lapun meri i bin bringim kam long yumi

(God i ken blesim gris pik!)

Bikos ol lukim mitupela wok hat

Na laikim ol tumbuna

Tasol mi i no save na karai nogut tru

Hau bai mi halivim yu long save?

Olsem nau, dispela em wanem samting bai mi beten

Sapos God bai harim mi wanpela taim tasol

Long wanpela nait insait long glori blong Em oltaim oltaim

Antap tru long paia kalap long paia ples

Givim poro blong mi bel isi, sapos yu god tru tru

Wantaim gutpela sindaun we heven tasol i save

Bikos mi gat planti tumas long tok tenk yu long

Tasol liklik tru long givim.

Larim poro blong mi save olsem mi tu save

olsem mitupela stap hia na nau, mitupela yet, i stap laip

Na mitupela gat laikim tu.



Rap kat – (rough cut) Pinglish equivalent to the adjective phrase “rough-cut”

  • The difficult phrases to translate for this poem is the title phrase, “rough cut” and “on one night of His majestic eternity “.
  • For all plural words, the Tok Pisin plural marker “ol” is used. Plural pronouns were translated based on the context of which they are used in the poems.

Original English version of poem You See Dried Grass Over Rough Cut Logs by Michael Dom.

You See Dried Grass Over Rough Cut Logs

26 October 2020



You see dried grass over rough cut logs
And the earth floor of my house
When I open my home to you
And you think to yourself how you can help me.
And yet…
I smelled the air that morning we cut the kunai grass
And I heard the children laughing as they played
On the green knoll beside us
And I tasted the sweet sour sweat
As we hewed the living trees to earth.
I felt the heat of day and the burning flames
As this house was dried and bound
By light of bright blue day above
And in the deepest dark of night.
I recall the evenings we ate the green-cook
That the old women brought us
(God bless pig fat!)
Because they saw our toil
And loved their grandchildren.
But I do not know and lament bitterly
How could I help you know?
So, this is what I would pray
If God would listen to me once
On one night of His majestic eternity
High above the sparks of my fire place
Give my friend peace, if you are truly god
With the blessing that only heavens knows
Because I have much to be grateful for
But so little to give.
Let my friend understand that I too know that we are here and now, each of us, alive
And we love too.

This poem first appeared on PNG Attitude on 24 August 2016 at

How Lake Ipai Came to Be

24 October 2020


Alone Abstract Concept, Dead Tree In The Middle Of Lake In The.. Stock  Photo, Picture And Royalty Free Image. Image 43696216.

New Erima Primary School, NCD

The following is a traditional story that explains how Lake Ipai in Enga Province came into existence. Lake Ipai is located in Laiagam District where I am from. Traditional myths relating to the creation of the lake have been passed down from generation to generation. These stories are believed to be true accounts of how the lake was formed because it explains the features of the lake as seen by people who live there today. I interviewed my grandmother and she told me the story which I will now retell.

There once were two brothers – Ipai and Ape – who lived in the thick jungles. They were hunters and gatherers, traveling from one place to another looking for food and shelter. Both Ipai and Ape had two pigs which they looked after until the pigs grew very large.

One day the brothers ran out of food to eat to sustain their lives as wanderers who moved often to scrounge for food or hunt for game. They decided to kill their pigs and prepare the meat to carry as they walked from place to place. The brothers killed their pigs and began preparing the mumu’s (earth ovens). Mumuing and then drying helped preserve the meat to last longer. And turning two large live pigs into smaller pieces of meat that they could carry also made their wanderings a lot easier and faster. They prepared and packed their meat in their string bags. This took the better part of the day and it was evening by the time they started their journey again. They carried their pig meat, hunting gears, like spears, and started their journey west. The walking was long and tough and along the way they ate morsels of pig meat to maintain their strength. They climbed high mountains and crossed wide valleys, passing through thickly forested swathes of land. The more energy they exerted the more meat they ate to replenish their bodily strength.  

But they were not properly managing their meat rations and after a few days the brothers were left with very little meat. Their bodies grew weaker and their walking pace slowed drastically. Ipai, the elder of the brothers, gave his leftover meat to his younger brother and decided to let him go on and look for more food and temporary shelter. The younger brother left the elder brother standing there holding his spear and walking stick. Ipai stood atop a mountain overlooking the next valley as he watched his younger brother walk down and across the vale.

From that vantage Ipai would look on, anticipating Ape’s return in the next few days. After his brother left, Ipai planted his spear into the ground to support himself as he stood facing the way his brother went. Hours passed and turned into days and days into weeks, alas his younger brother never returned. Over the days Ipai slowly lost his strength and began to shrivel as he lost more and more bodily fluids as dehydration set in. All the bodily fluids that Ipai lost flowed down his feet, forming a large body of water around him. Eventually Ipai died surrounded by a lake of his own bodily fluids. This is how the raun wara (round water), called Lake Ipai, was formed.

This story is believed to be true because it explains why up until today there is still a spear propped up right in the middle of the lake. That spear is thought to be the elder brother, Ipai’s, spear from the myth. Most of the people who live around the area fear to venture to the middle of the lake where the spear is. They believe that the spirit of Ipai watches over the lake and protects it from pollution. So they too must look after the lake and keep it clean.

*Nancy is from Enga Province and is in Grade 7, Maroons.

Lukim Hia Displa Ol Lus Tret

24 October 2020

Tok Pisin translation by Raymond Sigimet

See Here These Loose Threads

Lukim hia dispela ol lus tret,

Lukim hau mi holim ol long han

Na hau mi tanim antap long lek tais blong mi?

Skin i tait na silek long tupela,

Ol han na lek tais blong mi,

Tasol ol i gat bun yet

Long dispela wok na arapela samting.

Ol han blong yu i malmalum na nupela,

Olsem mit lek blong yu na i gutpela.

Yu gat longpela hap long go yangpela meri,

Planti samting long lainim; Bai mi skulim yu.

Bai mi wokim bilum blong yu.

Wanpela string bilum, kain olsem mi save karim kaukau kam long gaden

Tasol yu bai no inap tru karim kaukau olsem mi.

Yet yu ken lainim long wokim dispela bilum

Bai yu tu ken lainim long stori, stori blong yumi long ol pikinini meri blong yu

Na ol bai kamap strong na i gat save olsem yu.

Wanpela de bihain taim yu sindaun long paia 

Na tanim string bilong yu yet,

Wantaim ol lapun han olsem blong mi,

Antap long ol lek i tait olsem blong mi,

Yu ken tingim olgeta gutpela samting i bin kamap.

Dispela ol lek tais Bubu blong yu i laikim tru, taim mitupela yangpela.

Yes, em laikim tru, planti, planti nait – em i gutpela tu, em trupela

Na bai yu painim man long mekim wankain long yu.

Dispela ol han kamapim famili.

Holim ol, givim kaikai long ol, paitim ol, lainim ol na laikim ol olgeta de.

Inap taim ol i go wanwan, long kamapim famili blong ol yet.

Olsem na nau dispela ol han i raunim ol lus tret long rolim ol kamap string, 

I olsem wanpela taim ol i holim pas ol pikinini blong mi long bros blong mi.

Nau, dispela ol sikin silek han i mekim mi tingim ol pikinini blong mi olsem wanwan tret.

Ol kala em ol tingting i stap insait,

Ol han wok em ol samting i bin kamap,

Ol longpela blong string kamapim wanwan stori long laip blong ol;

Taim mi tanim stori blong mi, mi lukim ol insait long lewa blong mi

Mi simelim ol wanwan, olsem simuk blong paiawut I save mekim aiwara.

Mi pilim ol wanwan, taim mi pilim ol dispela tret long han blong mi i gro strong.

Na tanim ol, string i go namel long string,

Olgeta dispela tanimtanim, bungim yumi wantaim, wanpela narapela.

Em laip blong mipela, i tanim wantaim long kamapim stori.

Tasol em bai olsem wanem, dispela stori i kamap long ol string?

Bai mi kisim go long gaden blong mi – long karim kaikai long haus;

Bai mi salim long sampela moni – long baim nupela gadenspet;

Bai mi wokim blong nupela marit meri – long soim em pasin blong mi;

Bai mi givim long pikinini meri blong mi– long mekim bilas blong em i lait;

Bai mi salim i go long tambu blong mi – husait em Bubu blong yu i save laikim tru – long soim lewa blong mi;

O ating bai mi salim i go long narapela ples we ol i no save long dispela kain laip.

Ating ol i no save long dispela strongpela lapun meri na stail yangpela pikinini meri blong em,

Na ating wanpela man nau bai lukim stori blong mi long dispela bilum na lainim long mi tu.


Tret – (thread) as used in the poem for cotton wool or string used to make bilum. The Tok Pisin “rop” is not used in the translation as it is used with rope, string or twine made traditionally from plant fibres.

String – (string) same meaning as “string” in English as used in the poem.

Lek tais or Lek – (leg/thigh) as used in the poem to refer to the upper leg or thigh(s). The Tok Pisin expression “mit blong lek” and “antap blong lek” are not used in this translation. 

  • The phrases hard to translate well for this poem include, “colours are feelings”, “textures are events”, and “every loop and hitch and tie”.
  • For all plural words, the Tok Pisin plural marker “ol” is used. Plural pronouns were translated based on the context of which they are used in the poems.

Original poem in English by Michael Dom.

Relishing Thoughts of Sago Starch

24 October 2020


Mommy's Day Out
That’s the very sago itself 
Decorate the muddy waters
Those palms have spiky pines
Will skewer like spears
But when its trunk is felled
Put your adze into it
And water will cream up food
That’s the very sago itself
Oh man, ancestral crocs
Must have dreamed well
To see women of Sepik
Decorate the muddy waters
Brother, never forget
How this will fill your belly
If you get a bighead
Those palms have spiky pines
Oh heart, when you spin sago
Think of me for one plate
Love I feel for you
Will skewer like spears

Where Am I From?

23 October 2020


My land (Human Rights Watch)

A poem about identity and unity and the things
that make us different yet interlink us

I am from land,
          from river, sea and mountain.
I am from valley and volcano,
          from chilly mountain breeze and steaming lava.
I am from mother, father, uncle and aunty,
          proud in traditions, passed through generations.
I am from a wild,
          yet structured social organisation,
          of stories untold and yet to be told,
          lingering in the present and seeping to the future.

I’m from village and hauslain,
          from clan, tribe and totem,
          from haus tambaran and hausman.
I’m from round-house and long-house,
          from haus-kukhausboi and hausmeri.
I’m from high covenant home and the Pineapple Building,
          from Kapal Haus and Deloitte Tower.  

I’m from coconut and betel nut,
          from fish, magani and pig
I’m from Ox & Palm, Dolly and Diana,
          from Trukai rice, lamb flap, sago and Whagi Besta
I’m from the highland and island
          from the coast and atoll.
I’m from Krapehem and Gararua,
          clans I have yet to make proud.
From conch shell, tavur, pig tusk and garamut,
           whose wisdom I have yet to acquire.
I’m from mainline church and evangelical church,
          from Catholic and Lutheran,
          to SSEC, CRC, COC and AOG.

I’m from spirit and masalai,
           from dukduk and tumbuan.
I’m from Mande Tuo, Datagaliwabe and Yaweh
           from God-Three-One and the One-True-God,
          who my ancestors knew by many names.

The mat and the laplap,
            on which I sleep,
            provide me no extra warmth
            from freezing temperature.

But the dream that I dream,
            of my forefathers’ legacy,
            comforts me all my days,
            until I meet them again.

I’m from Dareni Primary School and Awaba Secondary School,
            from UPNG, Unitech and UOG,
             from student groups,
            standing and walking tall and free.

I’m from many languages and many cultures,
            many actions and many words,
            spoken and unspoken,
            deeds done and yet to be done.

I’m from many faces and many places,
            many beliefs and many voices.

And so,
            I’m from only one place on earth.
I am from Papua New Guinea. 

This poem first appeared on PNG Attitude on 28 July 2016 at