Elites & education: John Kadiba on Ulli Beier

Keith Jackson & Friends: PNG Attitude,  31 December 2011


This is an extract from a new book by JOHN KADIBA, Night Dreams of Passing Memories.  In view of Martyn Namarong’s recent article criticising elites and education in PNG, it casts an interesting light over how things used to be and how they could be in the future given the right will – PF

I TOOK SOME OF ULLI BEIER’S COURSES in my studies at the University of Papua New Guinea. Ulli had taught English Literature in the developing countries which were colonised by the British, in particular Africa.

Ulli Beier (1922-2011)

While holidaying in London, Ulli responded to an advertisement for a founding teacher to develop and lecture in New English Writing from Developing Countries at the newly established University of Papua New Guinea.

The idea of teaching such an innovative English course greatly appealed to him. He thought that it was a fantastic opportunity to design a literature course for a new university without regard for the academic traditions of England or, for that matter, the traditions of Australia. He thought such academic traditions taught in developing countries, were helping to perpetuate colonialism.

In his courses on literature and creative writing at the University of Papua New Guinea, Ulli taught with great passion. And in turn, his students discovered their passion for experimenting with creative writing connected to their immediate world, and for reading the writings of authors from other developing countries and the black writings from the United States.

Two textbooks that stand out in my mind were the seminal African novel in English, Things Fall Apart by the Nigerian novelist Chunua Acebe, and Another Country by James Baldwin, the black writer from the United States.  At the time, the latter novel was banned in Australia, I presume because of its explosive racial and sexual overtones.

With the exception of one student who became a writer, I and other students went on to pursue different career paths.  Nevertheless, as students, under Ulli’s eager supervision, we wrote plays, poems and short stories. 

And in these writings, some voiced their thoughts and experiences about their traditional cultures, others about politics, yet others about their anti-colonial feelings and race relationships.  And we were all writing in English as a second language.  Some students were more adventurous in the use of English while others were not so daring.

Most of the students’ plays, poems and short stories were published.  Some writers were forceful and explosive in the style of their writing, while others were tame. 

And with Ulli’s help also, the autobiography, Ten Thousand Years in a Lifetime by Albert Maori Kiki and the first novel in Papua New Guinea, The Crocodile by Vincent Eri, were produced. 

John Kadiba, PNG author

My interest was in writing short stories.  My most popular story, entitled Growing up in Mailu, appeared in different literary publications in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific and was for a time adapted for radio programs in Papua New Guinea.

Night Dreams of Passing Memories, by John Kadiba, July 2011, ISBN: 9781462849123, available from Amazon.com for $29.99 or contact the publishers on Orders@Xlibris.com.au


Phil, I greatly appreciate you selecting the extract in my book on the late Ulli Beier.

Ulli was a great creative teacher and together with his wife, Georgina, they had an enormous influence on the early writers and artists in PNG.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to Ulli and Georgina for the work they did in mentoring and inspiring the first generation of writers and artists in the country.

Posted by: John Kadiba | 31 December 2011 at 11:02 PM

Keith, thank you for posting this extract which Phil Fitzpatrick selected from my book. Much appreciated.

Posted by: John Kadiba | 31 December 2011 at 11:07 PM

Dispela tok-singsing emi bilong Dollorose Fong Roka

Tok Pisin translation by Michael Dom

Nogat toktok, peren, bai kirapim ol lain indai

Nogat tingting yumi autim na wara lusim ai

Bai kisim bek ken husat i lus na tekewe pen

Yumi sindaun mauspas tasol na putim iau long ren

Toktok bilong mi sotwin, peren, pen emi wankain

Wanem stori inogat nek bai mi salim ikam

Taim narapela toktok inogat strong bilong en

Nogat tingting na aiwara, God emi salim ren

Em toktok bilong God, peren

Long laip yumi hatwok igo inap pinis b’long en

Hamamas, sore na wanbel i holim han wantaim

Painim gutpela – noken abrusim pen bilong em

Dispela save trutru ikam, wankain olsem ren,

Bai yumi mas pilim pen pastaim na bihain lainim

Em laikim bilong God, peren.

A rondeau for Dollorose Fong Roka

Original poem in English by Michael Dom

No words, my friend, bring back the dead

No thoughts conveyed, nor tears we shed

Take back the loss nor ease the pain

We sit in silence and hear the rain

Not words, my friend, we feel the same

What mute verse can I send instead

When consoling words are in vain

Not thoughts, not tears, God sends us rain

His words, my friend

In life we struggle to our end

Joy, grief and peace come hand-in-hand

Seek hope – do not avoid sweet pain

For this wisdom comes, like the rain,

That after grief we understand

God’s love, my friend.

Created on 9 October 2015, 07:30AM at Labu Station for the passing of the baby daughter of my writing colleague Leonard Fong Roka.

Lost in the non-linearity of PNG time


Keith Jackson & Friends: PNG Attitude, 29 September 2011

I’VE BEEN giving the Capitalists a hard time recently and perhaps rightfully so. And yes, around the world Capitalism seems to be having a hard time that’s unless you are a banker receiving government bailouts. These are indeed tough times.

The Western concept of time is that it is linear. The West borrowed this concept from its Judeo-Christian roots.

But most societies elsewhere around the world have always had a circular view of time. Thus the Mayan prophecy that the cycle of time ends in 2102 has been fueling speculation among those with a linear view of time that the world will end.

If you have a circular view of time – every ending is a new beginning. Then one cannot waste time or have limited time because time is always available. Every ending also creates new time. But of course these aren’t the views of the modern Western-centric world.

Because of its concept of time as being linear, the Western world does not have patience for Papua New Guinea Time. PNG time is as Papua New Guinean as tribal fights and betel nut. PNG Time can described as regularly regular ‘lateness’ and ‘delays’ or ‘cancellations.’

A friend of mine recently described typical examples of the application of PNG Time. Scot described a typical village meeting where people (mostly men) are given the opportunity to express their opinion. The meeting would start later than initially intended too.

Men would debate and discuss the same point, repeating the same point, and describe the same matter until everyone was satisfied that the single point had been analysed thoroughly before they move to the next item on the agenda.

Some impatient people call this “beating around the bush” but it’s the Melanesian Way, based on the idea that time is not linear.

Of course, foreigners don’t have patience for PNG Time and understandably so. It is one of the most frustrating experiences for many. Time is money, as the Westerners say.

The clash of cultures that arises from these parallel concepts of linear and circular time manifests in the resource sectors. In their rush to exploit PNG’s natural resources, Capitalists take short cuts to getting consent from indigenous tribes.

In their slowness to respond to the forces of change, indigenous people take their time in adapting to change. The end result is the endless litany of so called ‘landowner issues.’

Proper social mapping and genealogy studies as well as consultations and communal agreements would normally take years or decades to settle. Businesses with a linear time that has schedules and deadlines do not have the patience for PNG Time.

They therefore look for people whom they can work with against those who are in a time warp. Many self described genuine landowners thus feel left out and moan about it in the media.

An example of this situation is the dispute over the ownership of Moran oil field in the Southern Highlands. The State and Oil Search continue to exploit the resource but have parked payments to locals in trust accounts pending settlement of land ownership rights.

This situation has persisted for years now, and it seems no one is in a hurry to address the fundamental issues.

The violence between Boera and Porebada villagers over ownership of land at the LNG site also highlights the dark side of sitting on issues.

Delays in legislative and policy decision making also creates uncertainty among Capitalists. This uncertainty prevents businesses from making investment decisions.

The fact is that the private sector creates jobs and job creation depends on investment decisions. Uncertainty therefore stifles expansion of the private sector and reduces employment opportunities.

One such piece of legislation is the Public Private Partnership Bill. This Asian Development Bank-sponsored bill has been gathering dust since last year although the consultation process began earlier.

The PPP Bill should see businesses investing over K50 million on infrastructure, utilities and services in partnership with the State. The legislation has already been drafted by Gadens Lawyers and is in the hands of the PPP Task Force headed by Ms Juliana Kubak.

On this critical issue of time, I’m siding with the Capitalists and the Western world. Our people need to shift how they frame their world in time and space. They must abandon the cyclical view of time.

Their failure to do so has been responsible for some of the failures experienced by the nation. In addition, their failure to shift to linear time has made them vulnerable to exploitation.

We can’t sit around discussing and debating fundamental issues for eons. For as long as these issues persist they are a source of division in our commonalities.

And it is along this fault lines that foreigners enter into our society, divide us and walk away with our resources while we’re squabbling among ourselves over rice grains.

Take Fail as a challenge for greater things

By Korina Posikei

In life, we fail to learn how not to fail. Fail according to oxford advanced learner’s dictionary 8th edition, is to not be successful in achieving something. Fail is one of the things that most people despise. They say when you fail it’s because you don’t know what to do or you are both smart enough to do something. The thing is that nobody in this world is a failure. Fail is a choice. If you choose not to study and do the things that you are supposed to do then you’re making a choice that is likely to result with a fail.

Most kids in Papua New Guinea when they fail especially in their examinations, they think that this is the end of everything. They tend to just stay in the house, go on social media, chat with friends, and roam around the streets. We all think that failure brings shame to ourselves and our families. Of course it does, because of all kinds of words thrown at us by people we know. When that happens we quit, feel ashamed of ourselves and start to think that we are nothing. But this is not right. It’s still not the end. Try look at it at a different angle. You are where you are because of your past mistakes. Stop looking down on yourself and pick yourself up. You will be tomorrow what you do today. Using your God given knowledge is more powerful than the computer or the smartphones that you are using today. As a matter of fact, we’re living in the age of technology that was created by humans using the brain. Your brain can store more information than a computer or a smart phone. Our brain is powerful. There are so many people out there in the world that have failed thousands of times but still got up and tried again.

They did not give up or never stopped trying even though people called them dumb and failures. They used their time wisely to do something to help themselves and they became some of the most important figures that people didn’t expect them to be. They did prove that no one is a failure.

Failing once, doesn’t mean that you are not capable of achieving anything. The world is just challenging you. When we fail it means: F-first; A-attempt; I-in; L-life. As students our minds should be free to think more about things that can bring us prosperity and not disaster. When we fail we tend to hide our dreams and forget about them, but this is not the way it’s supposed to be. Our dreams are our motivation. When you are certain about what you want to become in the future there is no mountain that can stop you. Everything is achievable. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from. The ability to triumph begins with you always. This is just the beginning not the end.

In my opinion as a grade 8 student, we should take fail as a challenge, learn from it and come back bigger and stronger. Don’t look down on yourself. Get up from where you are and show the world who you are. We are destined for greater things.

*Korina is from New Ireland Province and she is in grade 8 (Red) at New Erima Primary School.

A Project For Our Children

Is the struggle worth it? Yes, always.

Ples Singsing - A PNG Writer's Blog

03 NOVEMBER 2020


PORT MORESBY – During one of our meetings to prepare for our much hoped for presentation to prime minister James Marape, writer Caroline Evari’s two young children joined us.

Betty Wakia  Daniel Kumbon and Caroline Evari in Port Moresby

I don’t know what they thought of their mother, Betty Wakia and I working on our letter to Mr Marape but, when they grow up, I believe they will know their mother was doing this for them and thousands of others like them in Papua New Guinea.

I have spent some months away from home working on this project to put our home-grown literature somewhere near the front and centre of our Papua New Guinean culture.

Over that time I know my family have missed me. My grandson Clinton will be three months old when I see him for the first time.

Two of my children did their Grade 12 national examinations while I have been…

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Advice to PNG Writer’s

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.”

Ples Singsing - A PNG Writer's Blog

21 October 2020

Dr. Evelyn Ellerman

Congratulations on this new venture!

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…

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“Who Should you Write For?”: Competing Spheres of Print Culture Production in Colonial Papua New Guinea

We used to have a vibrant print culture. What happened and can we revive this today with access to online publishing?

Ples Singsing - A PNG Writer's Blog

21 October 2020

Evelyn Ellerman

Figure 1: Arthur Jawodimbari receiving prize from Les Johnson

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…

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Learning to Be a Writer in Papua New Guinea

This is an inspiring essay worth reading by university students. Some good thoughts here towards writing for the Tingting Bilong Mi 2020 Essay Competition.

Ples Singsing - A PNG Writer's Blog

21 October 2020

Evelyn Ellerman


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…

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On writing an essay, and finding nice examples


Keith Jackson & Friends: PNG Attitude,  19 May 2014

ESSAYS are generally “short pieces of writing penned from an author’s personal point of view”.  However, that definition is vague and not really satisfactory because it could apply to other forms, such as articles and short stories.

Sometimes it’s easier to describe something by what it is not rather than the other way around.

An essay is not a written sketch, a review, an article, a short story, a polemic, propaganda, sermon or an editorial.  Neither is it an assignment written for a school or university.

The purpose of all the above forms is to use information to persuade the reader to a particular point of view.  The purpose of an essay is to reveal and make us think for ourselves.

James Krohe, an American essayist sums it up when he says, “In an essay we want the process of thinking, not the result.  The writer’s job is not to be right, but to be interesting, even while being wrong”.

In this sense an essay should reflect the personality of the author.  An essayist is a spectator of life.  An essayist must be broadminded and avoid being a moralist.  Rather, he or she should be tolerant.

The essayist’s concern should be the general picture of life in connection with a particular setting and its people, not its aims and objectives.

The essayist should attempt to capture the simple sublimity of life and not so much its romance, that’s the job of the poets, short story writers and novelists. 

Essayists are interpreters of life and their purview covers, among other things, history, philosophy, politics and literature.

In short, the essayist observes and analyses life and colours it with a personal fancy that celebrates the charm and quality of things.

The word ‘essay’ comes from the French infinitive essais, meaning ‘trial’ or ‘attempt’.  The term was first coined by Michel de Montaigne (1533-92), pictured, a Frenchman who lived during the French Renaissance.  He is still popular and well-read today.

Montaigne understood the word ‘essay’ as a verb describing the process in which the writing spirit mattered more than the finished composition. 

In all of his famous essays he invariably asked himself, “What do I know?”  It was never the answer that mattered but the manner of asking it.

In the Crocodile Prize competition we receive many entries that mistakenly purport to be essays.  Some of them fill the criteria but many do not.

If you want to see what a good Papua New Guinean essay looks like you can do no better than read some of the seasoned and accomplished writers whose work regularly appears on PNG Attitude

People like Gary Juffa, Sil Bolkin, Emma Wakpi, Francis Nii, Leonard Fong Roka, Martyn Namorong and Bernard Yegiora.

They know what it takes to write a real essay and they are experts in the trade.

And they would never dream of submitting a university assignment, sometimes called an ‘essay’.

Getting PNG literature recognised as a nation building tool


Keith Jackson & Friends: PNG Attitude, 18 June 2019

James Marape with Dr Lino Jeremiah Tom and Peter Mision Yaki and two of my books. Photo taken at Laguna Camp just a few days before Marape was elected prime minister by an overwhelming majority

WABAG – I was privileged to present two copies of my books to James Marape a few days before he was elected the eighth prime minister of Papua New Guinea.

Enga governor Sir Peter Ipatas, Wabag MP Dr Lino Tom, education secretary Dr Ulke Kombra, two national court judges, school principals, bookshop managers and other prominent people have also received copies of the four books I have published so far.

I belong to a group of emerging PNG authors, essayists, poets and social commentators who have steadily published books in the last few years due mainly to the Crocodile Prize annual literary competition.

But not many people including students ever get to read any of these published works.

The education department has made no effort to ensure schools in our country have PNG authored book are on the shelves of their libraries, which would ensure suitable titles for students to read.

In this way students will comprehend and relate more to PNG authored books than foreign books with unfamiliar cultures, ways of life and scenes.

After I presented my books to James Marape and the other leaders, I am optimistic the new government will at least see the significance of literature and the role it plays in nation building.

Me and Keith Jackson AM at the Grand Papua Hotel with a copy of ‘Survivor’. Keith wrote the book’s Foreword

Literature has the ability to provide knowledge and improve the quality of education in a country like ours where poor literacy rates remain the greatest challenge for people who continue to lack proper educational facilities.

There is an obvious bias in the country that considers that people who pursue career paths in law, medicine, engineering, commerce and similar fields will be more successful in life.

People who are passionate about pursuits like literature, fashion design, music, painting, sculpture and acting are destined to a life of low paying jobs and unproductive careers.

But people fail to realise that literature and other art forms are equally important – they are the essence that holds a nation together and gives it a unique identity.

I believe that every published copy of a news article, essay or book a Papua New Guinean has written is a narrative of the history of this country that should be preserved for future generations to cherish.

Literature serves as a gateway to learning and expands the knowledge of people to understand the world they live in and the wider world beyond.

My latest book ‘Survivor’ is one of the two books I gave prime minister Marape recently. It features three different stories on the suffering of women in PNG.

The lead story is the grim tale of an infant girl who survived a massacre in which her Engan father, Samoan mother and her brother were murdered.

It was a revenge killing for the equally senseless murder of a university student and serious injury of another student in Lae.

The second story in the book is about my wife Julie, who was raised as an orphan after her mother died from stabbing wounds inflicted by her father’s fourth wife during an argument over the theft of a bilum.

Julie did not complete primary education after her father assaulted her for missing one day of school. She ran away to her maternal grandparents’ village where she lived until she was too old to attend school.

My favourite is the third story which centres on an old man – a wealthy businessman and retired diplomat – who wrestles with his conscience to marry a young girl after his beloved wife dies in a traffic accident.

Here are the opening paragraphs:


The Old Man held the framed letter in his trembling hands. It wasn’t typed or anything but a simple handwritten note. The paper on which it was written was from a lecture pad from the university. It had turned a brownish yellow and rusted along the edges but the message was still clear in the glassed frame. It read:

Wanaku Mono o le… My girl, my heart,

Have you ever stood still to watch a spring sprout out from the ground on the misty trails of the Koe Koname tapu or Bini Apini tapu mountain ranges just before the Ipasakale birds begin to sing in their sweet little voices as dawn begins to break and when mists still cover the valleys?

My love for you is like that – fresh and pure ready to cascade down the mountain slopes mixed with yours to form a river down in the valley. Can you see as I do, our love growing to fullness?

You and I are young and our future is stretched right before us as one sees the Markham Valley from the top of Kassam Pass. I will take your hand and lead you there but I am in doubt you might have other plans – secret plans and names of other people written in the depths of your mind.

I fear you might be taken away from me in the two years of study we have left. This love that is beginning to well up in me might be in vain. Your attention might even be diverted to another direction by your parents whose decision you might be forced to accept.

Tell me what I will do if you are taken away from me? No, I do not wish that to happen, I have decided you should be mine forever. What do you say?

My heart is troubled this early morning as I stand here beside this spring wondering if our love would last a lifetime – the true love that has started welling up within me.

Tell me straight, in which direction your love will flow.

Yours forever.


On the empty space at the far bottom right hand corner of the page was a small note of approval neatly written in his wife, Rosemary’s own handwriting.

It read:

Mono o le – My heart,

Do not be trouble for I will come with you on the trip. You will take my hand and lead me there to the place you have in your mind.

Today, the letter dated June 12th 1976, still hangs on the wall in their family home among a collection of other memorabilia.

The old man reread the letter with glassy eyes as hot tears streamed down the folds of his sunken face. Continuous sorrow in the last year had taken its toll and reduced him to a boney wreck.  He had continued to cry when he discovered the letter in an album Rosemary had privately kept among her personal belongings. He had decided to frame it for the benefit of his grandchildren.

Their initial feelings for each other was etched forever on this letter, an enduring testimony of how much the old man and his dear wife, Rosemary were committed to each other beginning when they were young students.

He couldn’t remember how many times he has read it before going to sleep in the last year since his wife was taken away from him right before his very eyes in a horrible traffic accident on a busy street in downtown Port Moresby.


This short story is an example of how literature, whether poem, essay or novel, can help people read the words and absorb the content and ask themselves: ‘How did this person imagine and write this?’

All writers use literature to expand their writing which is an important tool in the development aspirations of a young country like PNG.

Me with Bryan Kramer, who showed how writing has the power to transform a nation

Newly appointed police minister, Bryan Kramer, has demonstrated on social media that effective use of literature can transform a nation and even bring down a government.

Literature provides growth and strengthens people’s minds giving them the ability to think outside the box.

There is no official encouragement for Papua New Guinean writers, but, for those of us involved in its pursuit, literature gives us the greatest satisfaction to record history in draft form for the benefit of future generations.

Copies of ‘Survivor’ are available here from Amazon for US$6.45