PORT MORESBY – Kipilan, a leader of the Yanarian people near Wabag in Enga Province, was born in Tambori village, in the 1920s.
Three months before Papua New Guinea’s independence on 16 September 1975, he went to Port Moresby to record the story of his life in the Enga language and anthropologist Philip Nere translated it to English.
Europeans did not enter Enga until the early 1930s when Kipilan was a youth. He quickly learned to accept their presence and gladly made use of their metal tools. But he was not pleased with all the changes brought in.
Kipilan said that the women of the 1970s were no longer willing to raise pigs the way they used to and men no longer wanted to work hard.
“Our young men wear long trousers, sunglasses, drink beer and go to market with betelnuts in one hand and paper leaf in the other,” he said.
“They wander in the crowd, chewing and spitting.”
Kipilan was afraid that the old customs would completely disappear and he wanted to do something about it.
The moka, a form of exchange, was important in the lives of the Enga people. Individuals and groups came together to give away wealth to other tribal groups and by doing so hoped to win great prestige and have much influence in the community.
Later, gifts would be returned, perhaps with even great generosity. Kipilan’s big moka was in return for one that took place in February 1966, when members of the Kii tribe had been the givers.
Kipilan call all the men together from his seven clans. He told them to go to their friends and relatives and ask for gifts to make a big moka.
He said that, as well as the customary gifts, he wanted to give a modern gift, a car. His people collected $3,600 to buy a Toyota four wheel drive. A motorbike and thousands of dollars in cash were also added to the list.
When the time came for the moka, 20 cassowaries, 20 cattle and countless pigs were herded into the ceremonial ground. The people of the Yanarian and neighbouring tribes gathered for the ceremony.
The men decorated themselves with black clay soil on their faces and put on black caps with feathers on their heads and the women wore grass skirts and oiled their skin.
Kipilan made a long speech comparing the old ways with the new and made it clear to everyone that he was worried about what might happen after Papua New Guinea gained independence the following year.
He said he missed the old customs but knew he could do nothing to turn back the clock. As he handed over the blend of traditional and modern gifts, in one of the biggest mokas, he ended his speech with an important question for Tei Abal and all the new politician of Papua New Guinea.
“You members talk about self-government, you talk of the House of Assembly. Will your work go straight or will it go crooked? I do not know.”
In the 1980s, tribal conflict broke out and the traditional moka was replaced by compensation payments between groups.
The younger generation of highlands people have lost interest in old customs and are unlikely to see another ceremonial exchange to equal Kipilan’s big moka.
Jeremiah Munini is from Enga Province and in Grade 7 at New Erima Primary School. This is part of a school writing project initiated by PNG writer and author Betty Wakia to promoting literature in schools. If you can support this initiative or donate any used books to the school, you can email Betty on firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s a funny thing about national literatures. It seems as though they find their own time to blossom. Like Papua Niuguineans, I live in a former colony, Canada. Different circumstances, but many of the same challenges. We achieved our political independence in 1867, but it wasn’t until almost a century later, 1967, that we awoke as a culture.
There are many reasons for this, but the influx of many European cultures through immigration, added to over 60 pre-existing indigenous cultures, meant that it took us a long time to figure out what the collective term “Canadian” meant. It happened with a bang in the 1960s, centring on a year-long celebration of our first century as a political entity.
I was in high school at the time and remember the very day in 1963 that I was able to walk into a bookstore and actually buy something written by a Canadian author. Just one book. But it was in the window. I couldn’t believe it! It was a poetry anthology called The Blasted Pine: An Anthology of Satire, Invective and Disrespectful Verse – Chiefly By Canadians. It changed my life. I began to look for more books about my country and gradually they appeared, mostly because our national broadcaster, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, made a point of introducing us to authors on the radio, and because one publisher, McClelland and Stewart, made a point of publishing Canadian authors and sending them on tour across the country for us to meet them. Publishing and distribution are essential and this is how it was for English Canadian writing at that time.
But there is another factor that is crucial to growing a national literature: children need to grow up reading about the world through the eyes of their own culture. Throughout my entire schooling, the children’s readers, the textbooks and all the cultural references were foreign. When I entered university in 1966, there was no university program anywhere in the country for studying Canadian literature. It was next to impossible to even find a single course in Canadian literature. I know. Because I looked.
Today, it’s a different story. Today, if you were to ask people about Canadian literature, they would be able to list their favourite authors. But, when I first went to university, and well into the 1980s, whenever I talked about Canadian literature, people would laugh and say, “What Canadian literature? You’re joking.” So, it is critical to reach children and youth, so that they grow up knowing who they are as a people.
But that was then – the chief publishers and distributors of literature used print and the radio, much as Papua Niuguinea literature did when it started. Come to think of it, this was at basically the same time as Canadian literature: the mid 1960s. People in Canada started with publishing their poems in newspapers and magazines and read their work aloud on the radio. Then publishers came and went for book length works. Publishing is always a problem, as it is difficult for local or smaller publishers to compete with the big houses.
Today, Papua Niuginean writers, and other writers around the world, are using the internet, which is a wonderful technology for publication and dissemination. A colleague of mine once told me that his first books were all printed in the usual way. Then, he decided to publish a book using an open access online platform and suddenly, he found that he had ten times as many sales because of the reach of the digital platforms, as well as a rapidly developing network of readers and fellow writers. My advice to any writer these days is to explore all the possibilities of such platforms. In my view, the internet not only provides an almost limitless audience for creative writing, it has actually given poetry a new birth, because it is such an oral/aural technology. The internet has re-vitalized the genre by enhancing what is at the core of all good verse: the music of the spoken word.
I applaud the efforts of Michael Dom and all the other writers and friends who are responsible for this new blog. I believe it will provide a cornerstone for the community of writers from Papua Niuguinea.
For students and instructors at English-speaking, post-war, colonial universities, the literature curriculum had special significance: graduates of these institutions were expected not only to fill key positions in a new nation, but to write that nation into existence. Theirs would be the first histories, biographies, and literary texts of a new nation. This essay examines the role of those universities in the development of print culture by focusing on the teaching of literature and the training of writers in the colonies of Papua and New Guinea (PNG), where the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) served as a hothouse for late colonial cultural production. Established in 1965, UPNG was literally at the end of the decolonizing trail. Some of its academics had previously worked in Africa and other colonies, and had thus arrived at UPNG with ideas about the role that university-trained writers could play in nation-building. In an effort to re-build cultural self-confidence in their students, they purposely restricted the curriculum to works chosen largely from the traditions of European alienation, as well as African folklore and anti-colonialism. Student-generated creative writing was added to the curriculum immediately and then published or performed abroad through the efforts of their professors. Contextual analysis of the interplay between such pedagogical practices and the actions of UPNG’s first writers constitutes an essential step in understanding the early literary history of Papua New Guinea.
In 1970, the colonial administration of Papua and New Guinea (PNG) published a short article called “Courses for Writers” in the December issue of its literary journal, New Guinea Writing (NGW). The article consisted of two short paragraphs side-by-side underneath a photograph of a writer receiving a literary prize (Figure 1). The left-hand paragraph described a creative writing course for the general public, mainly high school students, taught in part by Don Maynard, the director of the administration’s Literature Bureau. This course had originated with University of Papua New Guinea literature professor Ulli Beier, and been handed over to the Literature Bureau for ongoing instruction. The right-hand paragraph3 described the first two courses for writers offered by Glen Bays, newly appointed director of the mission-sponsored Creative Training Centre (CTC), which was founded in 1970 under a grant from the World Council of Churches. Connecting and dominating both short paragraphs was a photograph of the colonial administrator, Les Johnson, awarding first prize in the play-writing competition to a young university student, Arthur Jawodimbari. The visual construction of this page is worth considering because it not only identifies the primary institutional sponsors of print culture in Papua and New Guinea—the colonial administration, the University, and the Christian missions—but also suggests what the relations were among them. The photograph proposes a superior role for the administration as well as indicating its official sanction for writing as an approved project of decolonization. Both Maynard and the colonial administrator are smiling; the body language is casual and friendly. The parallel paragraphs below the photograph suggest that the missions and the University were of equal status in producing new writers and that both worked closely with the Literature Bureau. However, like many other artefacts of decolonization, the visual appearance in this article of the relationships among the three sponsoring agencies bore little relation to the real world.
PORT MORESBY – Imagine reading through a collection of poems only to find out that they were written throughout a decade by a young woman struggling through life.
The 85-page book of poems mostly came as an extraction from a young writer’s Grades 11 and 12 school journal and is titled ‘Nanu Sina’ (‘My Words’).
Looking back on her journey, Caroline Evari of Popondetta, who penned her poems as a way to express her emotions while a student in Port Moresby, does not feel that her journey was unique from any other young Papua New Guineans navigating through life.
Her book captures a decade journey and discusses the four main themes based on conflict, relationships, hope and family and raises questions on fear doubt, love, regret, persistence, motherhood and children.
“I wrote in the evenings during study times, early in the mornings and during quiet times,” says Caroline reflecting on the time it took to write her poems.
She also realised she wrote better when she felt stressed from worrying or having self-doubts. However, she says not all her poems are structured around the same topic.
“My poems are centered on my observations and general topics related to society,” she said.
Perhaps having those experiences written down during those emotional moments have led fans to describe her work as beautiful and perceptive to daily issues.
Popular writer and blogger of PNG Attitude, Keith Jackson described Caroline’s book as a collection of “sublime Melanesian verse from a poet of perception.”
Others enjoyed reading her poems while a few have used it for their own purposes.
“My girls have not been able to put the book down,” said one fan. “They read it every night.”
While another one said: “Reading your poems brings me memories of the time you wrote a beautiful poem and I had it read at my brother’s funeral.”
To Caroline, having those experiences written down was an important way of managing the emotions that any teenager would have felt at that time.
To have actually published it into a book she wants her readers to know that it’s okay to have doubts, fears and uncertainty as a young person but not okay to have those emotions build up and have a negative impact in their life.
Caroline says finding someone to talk to is a good way to take off the pressure but if you’re anything like her, then write them down in a diary or notebook.
“Let all your frustrations, confusions or fears walk all over the pages of your journal,” said Caroline.
“One day, when you have matured in life and gained enough confidence, you can look back at your journal and be able to see your journey painted all over it.”
That’s what Caroline has been able to do. To look back and be amazed at the journey she took as a teen to an adolescent and finally as a mom with two kids.
Attracting people to a craft is important to an artisan and similarly, as an author Caroline feels it is important to have her readers resonate with her poems.
Caroline grew up in a family of seven and her dad comes from Musa in the Oro province and Waema in Milne Bay, and is a retired mechanic. Her mother is from Musa and is a full-time mum.
In the late 1990’s Caroline grew up in Popondetta and missed out most of her early childhood education but made up for it by attending her elder sister’s Grade 5 classes.
In the mid-2000’s she was sent from Popondetta to attend the girl’s secondary school at Marianville in Port Moresby.
It was there that the young writer developed her love for poems and remembers spending quiet times writing in her school journal.
“Poetry to me is what I’d like to call a fancy way of expressing one’s feelings,” said Caroline, going on to say that the beauty about poems is that it does not necessarily follow a certain rule in literature.
“It is the best way of expressing yourself,” she said.
Caroline describes poems as a lyrical composition adding that if one can imagine the impact of a lyric then they would be able to understand how beautiful a poem can be.
The drive behind writing poems came about as a way of expressing her loneliness and missing out on parental love.
“I was the youngest in the family of seven and had to leave my parents in Popondetta and go and live with my older siblings to attend school.
“In a way, it made me miss that parental love and care and made me see poems as an outlet to pen all my frustration and experiences.”
During her university days, Caroline had about 65 collections of poems but was still uncertain about the direction in which her writing would take her. In 2015, she began planning the publication of the book but wasn’t able to get it through because of a lack of inspiration.
“The idea of getting my poems published came when I entered the Crocodile Prize competition. I compiled the poems electronically from 2014 to 2015, extracted them onto a template I downloaded from Amazon.com and sorted them in 2016.”
But the urge to publish would become strong after she joined the children’s writing project with the Library For All.
“Seeing the final product of my stories from Library for All really motivated me to get my long overdue collection of poems published. So, when I was inspired to get it published, I got JDT Publications who assisted me with editing, cover page and publications.”
JDT Publications is run by Jordan Dean, a well-known Papua New Guinean writer who has a Facebook page where he has helped so many aspiring writers. Apart from publishing, JDT also offers editorial services, branding and social media marketing and customised illustrations.
There are about 85 poems in Caroline’s book and by deciding to give a local name to it, Nanu Sina from the Yareba language in Musa in Oro Province, the book places more value on her origin and her local dialect.
Her journey has come with a lot of support and help through kind comments, friends reaching out to ask her for advice on publishing and more people asking her to buy her books.
“As an author, it gives me satisfaction knowing that the book is a significant achievement to me.”
But having a role model to look up to is something the young writer says, has really helped her grow as a writer. Caroline has since been receiving mentoring from popular PNG writer Rashmii Amoah Bell on how to write and promote her own books.
Rashmii Amoah Bell’s contribution to PNG literature has challenged many female writers and helped bring out discussions on issues affecting their lives.
“Rashmi Amoah Bell as we know is a Papua New Guinean woman who edited the ‘My Walk to Equality’ book which is the first book that contains a collection of writing from Papua New Guinean women…. how good is that,” said Caroline.
Apart from publishing, Rashmii solely promoted and marketed ‘My Walk to Equality’ where it had its copies purchased and distributed successfully.
Overwhelmed with joy that she’d managed to finally put her words into the beloved, hard-copy form of reading which we call books, Caroline hopes Papua New Guineans would see how important it is to publish stories into books than contributing to social media platforms.
“Because a book is your unique product and you as a writer own the copyright to it,” she said.
“It is a rare thing in PNG for people to become ambitious about publishing book but the moment you publish a book and hold the hard copy for the first time, it gives an amazing feeling of achievement and gives you a whole new perspective.
“Imagine if Facebook, Twitter or Instagram ceased one day, you would lose everything. But when your work is compiled in a book, it stays on forever.”
As a new publisher who’s taken the risk, Caroline wants to see Papua New Guinean writer’s emerging. “Papua New Guineans are great story tellers,” she said.
“If we do not capture all our stories right now, they will one day disappear from our minds and lips.”
For Caroline, writing is an art and is something anybody can do where it needs a strong motivation to face challenges in a country like PNG.
To aspiring writers who have tons of manuscripts locked away, Caroline advises that commitment to writing gets the job done and unless you’re not committed than you lose focus and end up procrastinating your book.
She has also advised on being prepared to pay the price in order to produce quality work and to also make the right connections to the right people to help support their passion for writing and publishing books.
Caroline recently received her first twenty copies of the book while her first copies have been sold out so far.
Over the coming months, she will be conducting a series of school talks to NCD schools and would like to ask language and literature teachers to reach out to her on email email@example.com should they want her to visit their schools.
Excitingly, Caroline is looking at giving the first 10 copies of her book to the first 10 schools that invite her to speak to their students on her writing and publishing journey.
Apart from her own book, she will also be giving away several books such as Crocodile Prize Anthologies and books authored by other Papua New Guinean writers.
Caroline has already been invited by three schools in National Capital District and is now busy with several book projects including children’s books, another poem book, a collection of myths and legends, and a book about her career journey.
When Caroline is not working, she spends her free time writing and has already authored several children’s story books for the Library for All, contributed to ‘My Walk to Equality’, the Crocodile Prize competition and to spillwords.com
Caroline who works as a team Assistant with the World Bank Group says she receives a lot of help from her supportive husband and loves spending time with her two beautiful kids, Zechariah who is 3 and Nehemiah who is one.
Looking through her book of poems Caroline sees a young woman who has finally found her passion, found love and is unafraid to face challenges in life.
“It’s is all about taking the risk and finding your passion,” she said.
Just inside the front gate of the PNG National Museum & Art Gallery (NMAG), next door to Parliament House, Independence Drive, Port Moresby, sit three historical aircrafts, a Lockheed P-38 fighter, a Bell P-400 Airacobra, and the subject of this paper, a Ford 5-AT-C Trimotor with many stories to tell.
The Ford Trimotor series was developed in the mid-1920s from designs by William Bushnell Stout, something of a visionary designer and engineer, but also something of a copycat since his Trimotor was based on the work of Professor Hugo Junkers who pioneered all-metal aircraft construction, and Stout’s airframe closely resembled that of the fabric and plywood-skinned Fokker F.VII. Henry Ford had invested in the Stout Metal Airplane Company in the early 1920s, and bought the company outright in 1925. Junkers sued and won when Ford attempted to export his Trimotor to Europe in the late 1920s.
Earlier versions, the 4-ATs, were powered by three 300-hp Wright Whirlwind radial engines, but the 5-AT sported more powerful 420-hp Pratt & Whitney Wasp radials. All models were clad in corrugated aluminum alloy, and unlike most aircrafts of the 1920s the control surfaces were also aluminum. Metal control cables ran along the exterior of the airframe, and engine gauges were mounted directly on the engine, to be read by the pilot through the cockpit windows.
Nicknamed the Tin Goose, the Ford Trimotor was a popular commercial aircraft in its time and carried the Ford reputation for ruggedness and reliability. Over 100 airlines around the world flew Trimotors with various models carrying 12 to 18 passengers. Trimotors accomplished many notable feats: Commander Richard E. Byrd and three other crew first flew over the South Pole in one in 1929, Franklin Roosevelt campaigned via Trimotor in 1932, and despite achieving fame in other aircrafts both Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart also flew Trimotors.
The Trimotor on display at the NMAG is part of the Modern History Department collection. The Museum’s Trimotor was built in 1929 in Dearborn, Michigan, and flown to Croyden in the UK in 1930 as a demonstration model under the serial number NC401H. In 1931 it was at the Aero Show in Paris, where it was bought by Peter Malcolm King, the 4th Earl of Lovelace. On 28 December 1931 the Earl departed Le Bourget heading for his ranch in Tanganyika, after which the trimotor was suitably dubbed the Star of Tanganyika, serial number G-ABHO. After two years flying around East Africa, the plane returned to the UK having been sold to the British Air Navigation Company (or BANCO), registered in November 1933 and stationed at Heston Aerodrome in Hounslow, now part of the western greater London area. Renamed Voyager, it serviced BANCO’s summer routes to the Channel Islands and Le Touquet and Deauville on the French channel coast. In late October 1935 it was one of two Trimotors bought by Guinea Airways to join its fleet in the Antipodes, servicing flight routes around colonial Papua and New Guinea, as well as the trans-Torres Strait Australia-New Guinea route.
During the 1930s, Papua and New Guinea had the highest level of aviation activity of anywhere in the world, due to a burgeoning mining industry in a rugged region with very few roads. Sometime in the late 1930s, as more modern passenger aircrafts came in, the Trimotors were converted into freight carriers, a role they generally transitioned to worldwide in the 30’s and continued to fill for decades due to their rugged simplicity. During this time, the Museum’s Trimotor also spent some time in service in Australia.
In May 1937 the museums Trimotor was, “….. given a certain expressive name in the centre of Australia, as the result of a special cargo carried from Darwin to Tennant Creek. The cargo consisted of 30 garbage tins which the Administrator found could be carried more cheaply by air than by special truck which would have been necessary for the long journey overland.” The Tuesday 25 May 1937 edition of the Townsville Daily Bulletingoes on to read that, “….. at one time while on service in New Guinea the Trimotor was popularly known as the ‘Flying Fowl House.’ That nickname was gained as the result of a quantity of live stock being transported by the machine. In the course of its normal duties, it has carried everything from motor cars to sucking pigs.”
But by 1942 it had returned to Port Moresby, having been impressed into military service by the RAAF, under the serial number A-45-1 (VH-UBI), along with Guinea Airways’ other Trimotor, the A-45-2 (VH-UDY) which was destroyed in March 1942 during a low level strafing attack on 7-Mile Drome (now Jackson’s International Airport) by five A6M2 Zeros. A-45-1 was first used for general transport, then converted into an air ambulance by June of ‘42.
In late October, as the Australians pursued the retreating Japanese north along the Kokoda Track, an airstrip was cleared on one of the remote dry lakebeds at Myola near ‘The Gap’ at the crest of the Track, at an elevation of over 7,000 feet (2145 metres, nearly as high as Mt Kosciuszko at 2228 metres).
ln November, a New Guinea Airways civil pilot, Tom O’Dea, was flown up to make an aerial reconnaissance and he subsequently flew back in the Trimotor on 24 November 1942. He took eight patients out in his first flight, as nervous bystanders watched him just clearing the western lip of the ridge. Inexplicably, someone moved the markers at the end of the strip, presumably to make it longer, so that when O’Dea glided in for his second trip of the day, his wheels bogged immediately and the plane did a forward somersault landing on its back. O’Dea sustained major facial injuries but survived. The Trimotor proved to be unrecoverable and whilst stripped of some parts, laid on its back at Myola virtually intact for the next 37 years.
In 1979, the aircraft was recovered by the National Museum with the help of the RAAF, which carried it slung underneath a Chinook helicopter back to Port Moresby, where it was placed on static outdoor display in front of the Modern History Museum in Gordons, Ahuia St.
In 2015, the Gordons Museum was forced to close by the Public Works Department, who demolished the property to put a connector road through as part of preparations for the 2015 South Pacific Games.
Most of the collection was put into storage, but the Trimotor was trucked to the main NMAG property and placed in its current location, gracing the front driveway along with the other two WWII relics. As part of an agreement with the NMAG, the Public Works Dept pledged to procure another suitable property and rebuild the Modern History Museum, but to date has failed to follow through. The NMAG has entertained a couple other plans for this on the main Waigani site, but none have as yet borne fruit.
In 2014 Gregory Bablis identified the Museum’s Tin Goose as the most significant item in the Modern History collection, and renamed it the Spirit of Kokoda. Bablis speculatively valued it at USD$700,000, currently about AUD$1 million or PGK2.1 million. A fully restored, airworthy Trimotor sold for USD$1.2 million in early 2019. Since the Museum’s bird has an intact airframe (albeit in pieces) and all three engines, Bablis’ estimate is likely within the ballpark.
Whilst the Spirit of Kokoda appears to rest peacefully, it remains an object of contestation. The War Surplus Act of 1952 rendered all WWII surplus materials the property of the colonial state, and this carried over to the PNG government post-independence, but with the focus having changed from controlling saleable scrap to protecting historic artefacts large and small. The NMAG is the appointed authority charged with looking after the nation’s heritage, including from WWII. In 2008 the Kokoda Initiative was formed, an enduring partnership between PNG and Australia to look after the Kokoda Corridor, aligned along three pillars: The Track, the people and the environment. In 2018, the NMAG launched a new Kokoda Track Military Heritage Management Plan. Whilst all relics are state-owned, a central tenet of the NMAG plan is the recognition of landowners as the custodians of the artefacts left on their land from the war.
The Trimotor raises some difficult questions, especially as the Koiari-speaking residents of Naduri village who own the Myola area continue to press for the return of the Trimotor, and compensation both for ‘damage’ to the land from its presence and removal, but also for its removal in 1979 without, according to them, proper ‘consultation and negotiation’. They contend that the RAAF flew into Myola on a Saturday (the Sabbath for Seventh Day Adventists), and ‘illegally’ removed the plane before anyone could walk the couple hours from Naduri to the site. The Myola landowners repeat their claims every year, and threaten legal action. A more noteworthy threat is to block the track to Myola and impose a fee for passage, as blocking sections of the Kokoda Track has been a tactic used by disgruntled landowners elsewhere to draw attention to their complaints.
Was the removal of the Trimotor from Myola illegal? Do the landowners have any claim to an aircraft that legally never belonged to them, but was removed from their land? Can the Heritage Plan be applied retroactively? These and related questions must be left to Papua New Guineans. It is interesting to note that the landowners recite language on the significance and value of the plane from Bablis’ 2014 paper, which he shared with them at some point. His valuation perhaps gave them pause and motivated them to make their original claim.
At any rate, the Spirit of Kokoda Trimotor remains an important touchstone for PNG’s colonial and wartime heritage.
A version of this story was presented as a conference paper by Dr. Andrew Connelly at the Heritage of the Air Conference in November of 2019, Canberra.
“It is a home-grown literature that will amplify the creativity, culture and spirit of Papua New Guineans. But, lacking the required support, literature has not emerged in PNG as an influence capable of playing its vital role in education, in nation building or in people’s lives” – Keith Jackson AM, ‘The chasm in PNG’s cultural integrity’.
PORT MORESBY – Here’s the thing. If we want Papua New Guinean literature to have its own life we must do more than create it, we must interact with it, nurture it in our thoughts and conversations, and appraise it to the realities and imaginations of our society.
That means reading and discussing, sharing and critiquing, in mutual respect, the value and utility of our works, with our peers and to our readers.
Make no mistake that encouraging and participating in this vital activity was a critical aspect of the success of the Crocodile Prize when it was run from the pages of PNG Attitude.
In the aftermath of the death of the Crocodile Prize we should not only appeal to the government for support of our national literature, we should also revitalise the appreciation of our literature ourselves by making it the subject of our discourse.
That activity should not be seen as the restricted area of academic interest and should never be thus limited in a modern day literate society.
Writer’s like Martyn Namorong, Rashmii Bell, Kelakapkora Sil Bolkin, Mathias Kin and Julie Mota have previously demonstrated an interaction with our literature, both through their written expressions on literary agenda and in the various social, historical and in poetic discourses to which they have responded.
Such were the heydays of the Crocodile Prize literary feast.
Writers on PNG Attitude have been quiet of late but no doubt have been working studiously away in their own dreamtime domiciles and creative cubicles.
Nevertheless, this period reminds me of high school English lessons when everyone seemed to have disappeared into their desks after the teacher asked someone to read out loud for the class the next paragraph in the textbook: pin drop silence.
Well, I’ll read it then.
In order to achieve a home grown literature, as Francis Nii argued for official sanction last year, we need also to utilise our other two common and recognised National languages, Tok Pisin and Motu.
There is an unspoken agreement, at least among poets, to create and present our works in Tok Pisin.
This simple desire requires thinking out the work in Tok Pisin, and while that may seem straight forward for single language speakers, the nature of being bilingual, and more so multilingual, can turn this simple deed into a Herculean task.
(Or should that metaphor be ‘a job for Dodoima the giant’?)
Meanwhile, we’ve recently discussed the use of Tok Pisin, or rather the limitations versus utility of using dual language in fiction writing, short stories and novels, specifically in regards to Baka Bina’s short story Hanging Balls.
Incidentally, I am also reading for a (much overdue but hopefully well timed) review of Baka’s novel Operesin Kisim Bek Lombo, with such spicy Tok Pisin title and all.
However, in the previous discussion I’m not sure if we fully appreciated both the value and difficulty of using local or dual languages in long form fiction literature, which is an intuitively accepted idea in poetry.
Perhaps, we’ll learn more about this when it’s been tried out by one or two fiction writers. PNG poets are forging ahead.
We do have a history of using Tok Pisin and our local languages in literary writing since the advent of Ulli Beier and the Papua Pocket Poets and the short story era of the literary magazine, Ondobondo.
As we’ve learned there are scattered collections of PNG literature in places like the fantastic online resource at Athabasca University, the original paperback copies at the University of South Pacific, the restricted collection at the UPNG Michael Somare Library, the modern PNG Attitude blog site and even a number of private collections from expatriates who may have departed our shores, at least physically if not spiritually.
It appears that we should have a national treasure trove of literature for everyone to benefit from exploring.
While we ourselves may not have delved into the available literature, or addressed the idea of developing a literary canon, overseas literary aficionados have provided collections of PNG literature for worldwide scrutiny, and hopefully may have included examples of PNG writing in Tok Pisin and other language translations.
For example, there is an excellent publication of the Trobriand Islands legend of Imdeduya and children’s tales which I am working my way through (very slowly).
In a recent article by Francis Nii we were informed of Ganga Powell’s book titled, Through Melanesian Eyes, published under Macmillan Press Australia and now available on Amazon.
Much of the material was taken from the Ondobono era. The title of Powell’s collection is reminiscent of Russell Soaba’s 1979 poster poem Looking thru those eyeholes.
Well if you’re looking through our eyes you may be even more appreciative to use our tongue and be informed of the background brainwaves which produced those words echoing through time and space, indelibly inked and electronically everlasting.
For example, and as some ANU students may now know, Raymond Sigimet has provided good examples of poems in Tok Pisin (and even Broken Tok Pisin).
In the latter example the speech effect of Broken Tok Pisin may look odd on paper but can be very readily heard when read aloud.
Albeit, the poem does poke fun at inexperienced expatriates’ mispronunciations when using Tok Pisin.
While some readers may feel sensitive about this amusement, it must be asked, is the rendering not true?
The French often feel a snobbish kind of disgust at the Anglophone slaughter of their language.
And even the native British, not to mention the ‘Strayans’, brutalise the Queen’s English. So, all is fair in love of languages.
Alternatively, the use of local languages and especially Tok Pisin is of greatest value to our own PNG audiences. There are some sterling examples of such poetry on PNG Attitude’s pages.
Wardley Barry-Igivisa has integrated Tok Pisin terms into much of his poetry as well as providing an interesting ‘street level’ type response to politicians in his first attempt at a Tok Pisin poem, what I like to refer to as tok-singsing, there being no prior Tok Pisin word for ‘poetry’.
I look forward to more Tok Pisin wizardry from this skilled wordsmith, although we’re not always viewing the same scenes on n the light of our socio-political agendas.
The same good use of Tok Pisin’s power of expressiveness has been achieved by other poets creating tok-singsing, most recently Dennis K Belas’s poem Kisim bek kantri.
Apparently there have been no similar examples of Tok Pisin use from women poets on PNG Attitude, at least not from my search, apart from Julie Mota who produced her book Cultural Refugees in dual English and Tok Pisin, for which I provided a review, I’m not conversant on recent Tok Pisin poems by women writers.
On the other hand the Ondobondo poster poems revealed the familiar name of Mary Toliman, writing about wanpela pasin bilong ol Papua Niugini man, and who I hazard is related to Pamela Josephine Toliman of Crocodile Prize 2014 fame.
Regrettably I’ve not yet had the pleasure of reading Caroline Evari’s Nanu Sina: My Words, which received respective recognition from the World Bank media team during International Women’s Day this year.
Neither have I had the chance to review the women’s poetry in Rashmii Bell’s edited collection My Walk To Equality, since my ordered copy somehow sailed off into history.
I shall have to remedy my ignorance as soon as Amazon is shipping with any sanity.
Nonetheless, I’m more than certain that PNG women poets have something to say to us in our common tongue, na Tok Pisin bilong ol tu ia, em bai yumi ol man pilim lo bun stret.
This opinion is not to denigrate or dissuade the use of English in poetry, nor deny the versatility and universality of the world’s foremost language of communication. I would be hypocritical to do so as I have a natural affinity for English as my first language.
In fact, my own adventures into Tok Pisin use in poetry started a decade after I had already been writing poems. So from experience I know it’s no walk in the park.
All the same, there’s a lot of pleasure to be had during the crafting of a good Tok Pisin poem, and much more fun to be had when it’s read aloud to local communities and to those who have knowledge of the language.
Personally, I enjoy the way Tok Pisin can really spit out frustration at ridiculous behaviour while at the same time being amusing, with a kind of effortless tone of sarcasm that is appreciated in everyday conversations.
For example, em ol wanem kain man? That is, what kind of men are they, which is a sarcastic inference that, whomever those men are, they are certainly not behaving like men at all.
What’s more, in the examples Tok Pisin version of my poem Steven & Louise, there’s a tone to the reading which requires an understanding of the context which starts at the first line, ‘Oooh lewa’, by the expression moving from wistful to rueful and then to sorrowful in tone.
Certainly the same subtleties in speech and language effects can be said of English and other languages too, and therein lies the real value of poetry, and a literature which uses our own common tongue in all its vast variety of expression: it will speak to us in a voice which is also in our familiar language thus allowing us to connect with it immediately.
That Tok Pisin poems may be challenging to develop is a good control valve for quality of expression – poetry is after all an elevated speech.
Indeed, to me, tok-singsing is an elevated speech, em igatim naispela Tok Pisin tru, na tu emi toktok long ol liklik na ol bikpela samting wantaim, na moa iet emi save kam long as turu bilong bel na tingting.
Then, as Hart-Crane responded, “How to behave / In poetry: / Give things back / What they already have”.
Regarding the future of PNG literature* and the support being sought from the national government, my personal message to prime minister James Marape is that while we strive to ‘Take back PNG’ we must also ‘Give back PNG’.
Our national literature can do this even when our national budget cannot.
* Caroline Evari, Betty Wakia, Daniel Kumbon and Jordan Dean were twice invited to meet prime minister Marape to present a petition signed by more than 300 supporters of Papua New Guinean literature and seeking government funding support for local poets, writers and authors. On both occasions the prime minister was otherwise occupied.
New Erima Primary School, NCD – SINCE Papua New Guinea is into this so called gender-based violence, no one cares about what’s going on in the minds of children when parents are separated or divorced. Family is all that matters to children. They wish that they would have a happy normal life that they are so used to. For me, life was going so well when my mom and dad were together. I don’t know how they met each other but they don’t talk about any of it with me. Having fun and going out with them, taking pictures together and travelling from one place to another was something I’ve never imagined. Sometimes I could even go to my dad’s office and spend the rest of the day in there, since he was the headmaster of a school. On other days I would be at my mom’s work place, when she was a nurse. That became my daily routine, because I had not started school yet. I was six years old then. Since I was the only child in the family, they gave me everything I wanted, which is common for every parent who has only one child. Spending time with them was the best thing I could do in my life. Often times, I would play around with my best friends. Everything was going well but at times I started seeing mom and dad arguing over small things, although it didn’t bother me. I was only eight years old that time and did not think seriously about them. I started going to school when I was seven years old and that was when I started hanging out with my friends a lot. When I went back home after school, I would hear my small cousins telling me that mom and dad had been arguing again. From then on, everything got serious and I realised that every time I came back from school, they would tell me that there was fighting going on between my parents. At dinner time, they would pretend in front of me as if nothing bad was going on between them. Things started getting serious and I felt like everything was going the opposite way instead of what I had expected. Dad started drinking and would come home and argue with mom. Sometimes when he got frustrated he would destroy things in the house. No one tried to stop him when he did that, not even my uncle, and I don’t know why. I was the one they would put in front of him and when he saw me, he calmed down. Ever since then, I was used to stop their ongoing fights. I was starting to get afraid that something bad might happen to mom and dad. Even my aunts and uncles started complaining about the everyday arguments. Sometimes I questioned myself, wondering what to do next. One odd morning, I woke up and my dad told me that he was going to leave for a while. I suddenly felt so weak when I heard him telling me that. I wanted to go with him but he refused. My mom also didn’t want me to follow him. I said goodbye to him, he hugged me and left for town. I was crying while watching him go. Mom and I left for the house and we spent the day by ourselves. It was so odd and unusual that day. The more I thought about it, the more frustrated I became. The thoughts usually ruined my days. I didn’t stop asking mom when dad would be home but she just ignored me and didn’t even want to answer my questions. Every day, I woke up missing dad around the house and I could wait and wait hoping he would come home. It just didn’t happen. Every day I felt hopeless and caught up thinking about him why he wouldn’t come to see me. Mom was so fast, she just moved on with her life. As an eight-year-old child, I was getting suspicious. I don’t know if that is is normal for aneight-year-old child. I can’t even remember one single time seeing my mom worrying about dad. It was strange seeing my mom come home late at night. I thought it was her normal time to end the day. My dad left and never came back for me and my mom. One afternoon, I was playing with my sisters and mom came and told me to go to the house and wait for dinner. I left my sisters and did as she told me. We both had dinner together in silence and I felt like she was going to say something. After dinner, she sat me down in front of her and she said, “I have something very important to tell you. Your dad is going out with another lady and I think he’s going to marry her.” She didn’t stop yet and I was already in tears. She continued, “You know that I can’t take care of you by myself so I’m going to need someone to help me raise you up.” I understood what she was saying. I was running out of breath while sobbing. She hugged me so tight and I just fell under her arms and was motionless. The next morning I woke up and realised that I fell asleep last night while sobbing under my mom’s arms. My head was filled with all kind of questions of whys and hows. I still didn’t understand why my dad would do such a thing. Since last night I felt some kind of feeling that I couldn’t explain to the world and hundreds of questions run through my mind. I even ask myself why mom and dad were doing this to me. Why is this happening? Why are things ganging up on me? ‘ I tried to live a normal life when mom and dad wanted to marry their so-called new husband and wife. It just didn’t feel the same, the place I always called home was never the same as it used to be. Sadness and grief always appear in front of me when I see mom and her new husband being together. Everyday mom was so different, she never spent that much time with me like she used to when dad was around. She was so brain-washed by the new husband. My aunts tried their best to be good mothers towards me but it didn’t change how I felt towards my parents. I once heard stories about single parents and how their children felt so hopeless without their mothers or fathers being close to them. Now I really feel how they felt like. I tried to live in the same lane with them but that didn’t suit me at all. Every day seeing a family having fun together made me feel so sad and I just wished everything went back to normal. I would ask myself why they divorced. They don’t have any idea how I feel when seeing other children living with their whole family. Parents don’t realise how it feels like to live with a mom and a dad being separated or divorced. It hurts so much that parents have to know this. I’m always grateful for my friends and the people that I can call family because they were so supportive, encouraging and loving. Writing this story as a 15-year-old sucks when I always think back. I’m so grateful for myself because I was strong and brave enough to overcome it, even if it happened to me at a very young age. As a 15 year old, I want to encourage young people to make wise decisions to choose a good partner in life. It might happen that in the middle of your relationship you might do the same thing my parents did to me. You have to think about your child and what he or she is going to face if you happen to do the mistake my parents did. Stronger children might handle the situation but soft hearted ones might go through a hard time in their lives. Please parents, don’t be so selfish and think about yourselves only but consider your poor children and what they might go through. Please be cautious because you might end up hurting your own children and it might affect their personal lives too.
Liceanne Utah from Bougainville is in Grade 8 Purple at New Erima Primary School. These two stories are from a school writing project coordinated by If you want to support this initiative or donate any used books to the school, you can email the coordinator Betty Wakia on firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Erima Primary School, NCD – THE last thing she saw was the ceiling light. She was injected with something and the room started spinning and growing smaller and then she suddenly fell asleep. She woke up with pins and needles all over her body, she could neither talk nor feel anything. The doctor was talking to her but she couldn’t figure out what she was saying. She could hear nothing but echoes in her ears. Still feeling dizzy she got up, sat on the bed for a while until she gained consciousness then walked out from the hospital. As soon as she stepped out, the wind blew right in her face. The place was shivering cold and the sky was dull. Her last class came to an end with the sound of the school bell. Exhausted, she grabbed her bag and came out. Her mum was already waiting for her at the parking lot. She was part of the school volleyball team at that time and they were supposed to go for training that afternoon but it was cancelled so she went straight home. There was an upcoming championship and they were going to be challenging the other school in the next town. Her parents were so strict on her that when she didn’t have training, she would go straight home. She didn’t hang around with her friends that much. All she did after school hours was to stay indoors, do her homework and play volleyball. Without a final training session they went head to the volleyball championships. Their school won the game so the girls in her team planned a party at the captain’s house and asked her to join them. At the party she was introduced to a boy whom she found very appealing even though he was three years older than her. After that night, they started dating and slept out for a few nights. They met up every day at school. It felt so right but she started to lose concentration on her studies. She also skipped classes and sometimes she didn’t attend trainings just to go hang out with him. She even started to sneak out from the house when her parents were fast asleep. All of this was happening without the parents knowing or even suspecting anything. She did not realise that what she was doing was risky because she was so into him. She just loved being around him and spending most of her time with him until the day came when she found out that she was pregnant. She cried the whole night. She stopped answering her friend’s phone calls and she even stopped going to school. She was so scared to tell her parents about it. She felt so alone and helpless. All her dreams came crashing down. She tried telling her boyfriend about it hoping to get some assuring words and comfort from him but instead he was so disappointed and mad with her. He kept on pressing on the idea of getting an abortion. She just wanted to reverse everything so that all of these would not have happened in the first place. She didn’t know what to do next. She didn’t know who to turn to. A few weeks passed before she gained the courage to tell her parents. Her mum was pissed off with her. Her dad didn’t want anything to do with her, he couldn’t even look at her. Mum kept on stressing about their family’s reputation and what other people would say and think about them. They both started talking to her into getting an abortion as soon as possible. She felt helpless. Her friends from school and the volleyball team eventually found out and they all began pressuring her to get an abortion. They kept on talking about the team’s reputation and everything and didn’t even bother to ask how she felt about the whole situation. It was a dead end; she was left with no choice. So she went to the hospital. The doctor told her that she was five weeks pregnant. She asked if it wasn’t too late to get an abortion and he said it wasn’t but then asked her if that was really what she wanted. She was still unsure but with the pressure that was coming from her boyfriend, her friends and both her parents she was left her no choice. She didn’t want to disappoint and embarrass her parents or her team mates so the abortion was the only option left. As she walked out of the hospital after successfully completing the procedures of the abortion, she felt so guilty, disgusted and selfish. She couldn’t even bear the sight of her own reflection. Her mum picked her up and dropped her off at the house. She realised that she just hurt someone who was harmless, someone who had neither strength to fight back nor a voice to say something about the situation. She thought that getting an abortion was going to be okay but things just got worse because she stopped a heart from beating and it was dreadful. She regretted it all.
Korina Posikei from New Ireland is in Grade 8 Red at New Erima Primary School in NCD.
A MUSICIAN IN N.C.D. LOSES AN AVERAGE OF K1,500 PER WEEK UNDER COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS A group of seven Port Moresby-based musicians have on average lost a combined income estimated at K232,000 (or K33,000 per month per musician or K1,500 per musician per week) over the past six months since April. They gathered today at the National Museum & Art Gallery at Waigani, National Capital District and shared personal stories of the effect of COVID-19 measures on their families. One musician said: “Because there are no gigs, I have no income. In my family, not everyone works. The pressure is on me as a musician to earn money. I am part of a two-piece band at a local hotel and we have been performing weekly for the past ten years. That gig stopped in March this year.” Another musician said: “I am a guitarist and I play as part of a band at a club. Because of the lockdown, my gig dried up. I come from a single-parent family and my income helps my parent pay the bills. Now I do not help with the bills and I am not comfortable with that. I completed a short-course and graduated but companies are cutting down on staff and there is no demand in the job market for people like me. So, I have no gigs and no secular job.” Yet another musician said: “I sometimes help out with other bands as a vocalist or guitarist. I have my own band too. The lockdown stopped me from playing gigs. At the same time, I live in a rental accommodation and I share the rent. I now do not contribute to the rent and it has affected my relationship with my spouse, who has to carry the rental payment monthly. My rent is eight months in arrears.” Another musician whose income helps pay for school fees said: “We depend on gatherings to make money. Venues we play at include night clubs and open-air concerts. I help my partner pay the bills by paying the kids school fees. I had a weekly income and the gigs kept me going. Now I am unable to do that.” Another musician whose income and mentorship helps to keep teenagers out of trouble said: “I have six kids plus other orphaned children under my care. My partner and I house and feed them and my music income from live performance, hire out of equipment helps me pay for school fees and school lunches and uniforms. My main income is from club gigs. The lockdown has affected my income.” Another musician who was reformed after taking up music said: “I became a street kid after losing one parent. I had nowhere to go. My family told me that there was no future in music. But I took up a music career, and I make my money from doing session work, touring, and playing live. When my parent died, music helped me survive and put food on the table and helped my family during the ‘loose week’. The lockdown has affected me.” Another musician who holds down a day job but is the only bread-winner for his family said: “In my street here in Port Moresby, if you drop out of school; you are either a rascal through peer pressure, or buai-seller. I completed high school and did not do anything for four years except music. I did not want to become a rascal. I’m married with a child. Because of COVID-19, my partner became unemployed. I now have to provide for my partner and child in addition to my extended family. I am now spending eighty-percent of my income every fortnight taking care of my immediate and extended families. I have a regular job. But if I became unemployed tomorrow, I would become a freelance musician. I also operate a buai market to keep us going.” The group of freelance musicians have called upon the Pandemic Controller to relax the COVID-19 measures or provide compensation, if the situation does not improve. In a petition the group intends to present to Prime Minister Marape, and Pandemic Controller David Manning; they agree that: “Many of us are already living in a precarious financial situation. Absorbing a loss of income in Papua New Guinea since 23rd March 2020 is unsustainable.” “At the start of the year, Prime Minister Marape announced incentives to help MSMEs and SOEs affected by COVID-19. We request similar incentives and pandemic measures that will support us during these difficult times.” Meanwhile, an online petition on www.change.org collected over 100 supporters. “Based on our estimates of a musician losing K1,500 per week, 100 musicians stand to lose a combined total of K150,000 per week.” Approved for Release by: Steve Kairi | Lincoln Pera | Edwin Oa | Emmanuel Muganaua | Dwayne TJ Sogoromo | Charles Lawson Komboi | Max Ox Meauri