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 https://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2016/07/where-am-i-from.html.

Salim Tingting Long Saksak

23 October 2020


Tapioca & Banana Dumplings in Coconut Milk | Saksak | Recipe | Tapioca,  Hawaiian dessert recipes, Coconut milk bath
Em saksak tasol ia
Bilas bilong doti wara
Diwai bilong en igat nilnil
Emi sut olsem supia
Tasol taim em i silip
Putim tamiok long mit
Bai wara kamautim gris kaikai
Em saksak tasol ia
Olomania, tumbuna pukpuk
Ating em i driman gut tru
Long lukim meri Sepik
Bilas bilong doti wara
Barata, noken lus tingting
Long em i save pulapim bel
Sapos yu laik bikhet
Diwai bilong en igat nilnil
O lewa, taim yu tanim nangu
Tingim mi long wanpela pelet
Laikim bilong mi long yu
Emi sut olsem supia.

Sixteen Powerful & Inspirational Papua New Guinean Women

23 October 2020


Betty Wakia

DESPITE domestic violence, gender inequality and other challenging issues, Papua New Guinea has produced many powerful and inspirational women of real accomplishment.

The next International Women’s Day on 8 March (2017) will be a wonderful opportunity to honour these heroes and, with the assistance of PNG Attitude and Pukpuk Publications, the collection of women’s writing, My Walk to Equality, edited by Rashmii Amoah Bell, will do just this.

Traditionally, Papua New Guinean society views women as playing a role that is second fiddle to men. As a result, PNG women who journey along the path of equality and independence find it a road less travelled.

The woman I have selected in this brief catalogue inspire hope and a promise of a greater tomorrow. They can be held high as examples for young PNG women who have historically suffered from a lack of female role models.

History will remember them and their work will continue to greatly inspire upcoming generations and their trail-blazing lives will encourage others to travel their path.

Dame Josephine Abaijah

Dame Josephine Abaijah

Dame Josephine is an educator, businesswoman and political leader, being PNG’s first woman to be elected to the House of Assembly in 1972.

She was born in Wamira village, Milne Bay Province, and her career encompassed health administration, several retail businesses and chairmanship of the Interim Commission of the National Capital District.

In 1991, she was named a Dame of the British Empire. In the same year, she published A

A thousand coloured dreams

Thousand Coloured Dreams, based on her life story and the first novel published by a PNG woman. In March 2014, she was awarded the US Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award.

Dame Josephine stepped into politics at a time when deeply embedded cultural perceptions of women’s role precluded them from public life and women’s leadership at the political level was non-existent. She is one of the recognised inspirational role model for advancing the status of women in PNG.

Justice Catherine Anne Davani


Catherine Davani, whose recent early death from breast cancer saddened the nation, came from Dorom village, Rigo, Central Province, and was PNG’s first indigenous female judge. She was also a soccer international.

After graduating from the Legal Training Institute in 1984, Justice Davani started her career with the Public Solicitors office.

In March 2001, she was appointed a judge of the national and supreme courts becoming a great role mole for all PNG girls.

Dame Meg Taylor

Dame Meg, a daughter of Australian explorer Jim Taylor and Yerima Taylor from the Eastern Highlands, is a Papua New Guinean lawyer and diplomat who became the first PNG and a Pacific Islands woman to become Secretary-General to the Pacific Islands Forum.


She hold an law degree from Melbourne University and an master’s degree in law from Harvard University. She began her career as private secretary to then chief minister Michael Somare before PNG independence and continued in this role during his tenure as prime minister.

She was a member of the Law Reform Commission and ambassador to the United States, Mexico and Canada from 1989-94. In 2002, she was made a Dame Commander of the order of the British Empire.

In 2014, Dame Meg became a vice president of the International Finance Corporation and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency of the World Bank Group.

Her appointment as secretary-general of the Pacific Islands Forum was a significant breakthrough for women throughout the Pacific.

Hon Julie Soso Akeke


Julie Soso Akeke, from Eastern Highland Province and the daughter of a paramount chief, is a businesswoman and former radio broadcaster.

In 2012, she became PNG’s first female governor and the first woman from the Highlands region to be elected to parliament.

Before entering politics, Julie Soso was known as a humble and outspoken women’s rights leader and was president of Eastern Highlands Women’s Council and deputy chair of the Eastern Highlands AIDS Council.

Hon Delilah Pueka Gore

Delilah Gore is a daughter of a chief in the Sohe electorate and was elected at the 2012

elections as the first female political leader from Oro Province being appointed as Minister for Higher Education, Science, Research and Technology.

Currently in the role of Minister for Religion, Youth and Community Development, she is one of the inspirational female political leader who urge PNG women to stand together to address women’s issues and women’s rights.

Loujaya Toni Kouza

Loujaya Toni, from Lae, is a poet, teacher, journalist, singer, songwriter and the first woman from her province to become an elected politician. As a schoolgirl, she was nominated as

Loujaya (Toni) Kouza

the PNG’s youngest poet by University of Papua New Guinea.

In 1985, she beginning a career as a singer and songwriter and launched a string of solo gospel music albums. In 1991, during the South Pacific Games in Port Moresby, she performed her song Keep the Fire Alive with the group Tambaran Culture. Her poetry was subsequently published by the Education Department in 1998.

In April 2012, shortly before being elected to parliament, Loujaya graduated with a master’s degree in Communication Development Studies at PNG University of Technology.

Florence Jaukae Kamel

Florence Kamel

Florence Kamel has gained internationally renown as an artist and designer and was elected as a local government councillor in 2002.

She is a founder of Jaukae Bilum Products, managing director of the Goroka Bilum Weavers Cooperative and principal artist of the Goroka Bilum Festival.

She learned the art of the bilum – an integral part of the identity of Papua New Guinean women and, in more recent years, men – from her grandmother.

The work of the Goroka Bilum Weavers Cooperative is now on the walls of leading international galleries including the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane and the Australian Museum in Sydney. Artists from the cooperative have travelled as far as New York and London to mentor design students in their craft.

Florence is an outspoken advocate for women’s rights, a respected leader in the Eastern Highlands and supports more than 50 female artisans by providing a source of income to supplement the seasonal cash crops many women rely on.

Janet Sape

Janet Sape is a founder and executive director of first Women’s Micro Bank in PNG, the first

Janet Sape

bank of its type in the South Pacific region and fourth in the world. She’s also the founder of Women in Business, established to develop financial literacy among PNG’s women.

She was named by APEC as the first winner of PNG’s Iconic Women in 2015. In the same year, she also became Westpac’s Outstanding Woman of the Year.

In her youth, Janet was a professional netball player who represented PNG in the world championships, going on to coach the national team and eventually becoming president of the PNG Netball Federation.

She has been an unsuccessful candidate in the last three national elections and is one of the Pacific’s best known advocates on women’s issues, particularly on the need for economic empowerment and financial freedom.

Francesca Rhianna Semoso

Francesca Semoso

Francesca Semoso was a radio broadcaster and one the first women to be deputy speaker of the Bougainville House of Representatives. She was elected to parliament in 2005 for the North Bougainville Women Constituency.

She also serves as deputy chair of the Standing Orders Committee and as a member of the Parliament Business Committee.

Francesca is an advocate of women’s leadership in PNG and ardent supporter of temporary special measures (TSMs) to increase the number of women in the region’s highest decision making body because she believes “the women of Bougainville are natural leaders”.

Bosa Togs

Bosa Togs is general manager of information technology at Telikom PNG. She won the 2016 Westpac Outstanding Women award after successfully campaigning for equal pay for women employed by Telikom, taking up the case of two female colleagues, both engineers and single mothers struggling to support their families.

Mary Handen

Mary Handen is one of the only female to have been elevated to the Steamship Trading Company’s expatriate male-dominated senior management team after being appointed General Manager of Human Resources.

Moale Leah Vagikapi

Moale Vagikapi is a female entrepreneur, founder and co-director of IM Associates, a

Moale Leah Vagikapi

property development and management business that has expanded into other areas including mobile medical services.

She was recognised for her long service to the now disbanded Australian International Development Agency (AusAID). Moale has been also recognised by the Royal PNG Constabulary for her contribution to the human resource development in the police force.

Rita Jaima Paru

Rita is owner and manageress of Dial-A-Lunch services, a catering business operating in Port Moresby supplying affordable catering for government, business and the public. In 2014, she won the Westpac Outstanding Women Awards and was a finalist for the SP Brewery Entrepreneur Award.

In 2016, she was a Global Women in Management leadership training program recipient awarded by Exxon Mobil and Plan USA. Rita is an inspiring community leader and businesswoman who help girls and women in local churches to learn basic cooking, food handling, baking and other skills.

Penny Sage-embo

Penny Sage-embo is a professional social work counsellor and trainer. She is founder and Director of Joy’s Social Training Institute, which aims to help women by empowering and motivating them through counselling, formal supervision, awareness raising and focused training programs for businesses and the community on gender equalities and the roles and responsibilities of women in the business world.

Joyce Kiage

Joyce Kiage is a tailoring entrepreneur and became a successful businesswoman by

Joyce Kiage

providing sewing services and making uniforms for major businesses. She was the winner of the 2015 Westpac Outstanding Women SP Brewery Entrepreneur Award. Her businesses expansion has been driven largely by commitment to service. Her goal is to own a garment factory in PNG.

Lady Winifred Kamit

Lady Winifred has led change to improve the economic of women in PNG. She is a commissioner of the Public Service Commission, founding chairperson of the Coalition for Change and patron of the PNG Business Coalition for Women.

She also a senior partner in Garden’s Lawyers and board member for numerous businesses, where she helps PNG develop a consciousness about domestic violence and workplace equality.

This article first appeared on PNG Attitude on 30 December 2016 at https://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2016/12/16-powerful-inspirational-papua-new-guinea-women.html.

A Sad Tale of Two Brothers

23 October 2020


Rio Tinto's lawsuit, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea | EJAtlas


He walked on at his elder brother’s beckoning. It was not even 5 am yet crimson embers of solar rays were already piercing the night sky. Wisps of funneled air consistently thrashed violently against their bodies as Atilius crumpled his face and tilted his head away from the tear-jerking winds. He caught up with Paulus at the edge of the unnatural crater. There was no need for words or explanation. As the celestial furnace in the sky rose, the extent of the environmental destruction was slowly revealed to them. Paulus handed Atilius a container of bottled water.

“I preferred the natural spring waters”, the younger of the Boupang brothers scoffed as he reluctantly accepted it. 

“How could you let it get this bad?!”


Paulus continued describing the negotiations that had been had with the company but Atilius had mentally receded still trying to come to emotional terms with the sight that was presenting itself to him. The only time his elder brother ever used his middle name was when he was going to discuss something serious like informing him of a death in the family. Atilius had left their island province after their father died five years ago to start his practice on the mainland. When their mother passed away last week Paulus called his office to break the sad news to him.

“Hello, Boupang Consultants and Associates. How can I help you?”

“Oh hi Paulus. I’ll put you through to him”, replied the secretary.

“Atilius speaking”


There was a long pause. Atilius recognized his elder brother’s voice and sensed the grave tone of the message Paulus had for him. Their mother had been sick for some time. The silence was only broken by Paulus’ crying on the other end of the line.

The clunking of a dinosaur-sized truck descending into the growing hole-in-the-earth less than half a kilometer away along the fringe from where they were standing brought Atilius back to the present moment. Paulus was still talking, describing how their pleas to the company was falling on deaf ears.

“So where did you move the old man then?” Atilius interrupted.

“Come, I’ll take you to your namesakes’ new gravesite. We have completed his cement and headstone as you wanted. That’s where we’ll bury mother too”, replied Paulus.

As they approached their father’s burial plot, Atilius began twitching from a wrenching sensation in his heart then started weeping because he felt like his father had died twice, having been dug up and buried again elsewhere. And now their mother would be joining him soon on the distant patch of land.

*Boupang is a contraction for Bougainville and Papua New Guinea and is used here metonymically to represent the close relationship between the two even though they have had to make some tough decisions in the past.

The Estate of Icarus

23 October 2020

Steven Winduo

A young writer I have been following over the years is Michael Theophilus Dom, the son of Kuri Dom, of Simbu. Michael was born in Port Moresby in November 1977 to an academic father and spent much of his time around bookish people.
On December 20, 2016 Michael dropped off signed copies of his two books: O Arise: Poems on Papua New Guinea’s Politics & Society (2016) and The Musings of an Assistant Pig Keeper: Poetry and Prose (2016).
I accepted the books as a gesture of admiration and respect, as I had been reading his poems for some time.
Michael is very consistent, motivated, and understands the importance of writing without needing to study it as a formal subject. Michael represents a lot of young writers associated with the Crocodile Prize and various activities around it.
It was always a pleasure to read Michael’s poems every week in “The Poet’s Corner” of The National newspaper. Michael is a young writer I admire for his candid views and unpretentious attitude as a conscientious Papua New Guinean.
The title O Arise (2016) of his book is from a poem of the same name. The poem written in Japanese Tanka style is a statement on the removal of the totem pole and lintel cultural arts from the National Parliament by the Speaker of the House. Instead of replacing the tattered PNG flag the Speaker saw fit to remove cultural materials on the basis of some fundamental protestant doctrines.
O Arise (2016) is wonderful book of prose and poems. He begins the collection with poems such as “Yesterday we Dreamed”, which declares: “It was not so long ago/Hardly more than a lifetime or so/When our nation was so young/And history had just begun/Then, they stood them all/Forefathers tall/And blessed us/With an anthem song”. Michael challenges Papua New Guineans to hold close to their chest the Papua New Guinea ways whilst also taking on the challenges that come with modernity.
His makes that point succinctly in “Tribalism to Nationalism” in these lines: “Until this day we are tribes/each one desiring nationhood/eyes closed to the past, bling to the present/yet we seek a future/Was what we called our Melanesian Way/a transient dream? Dom is incisive about his political views. In the poem “Welcome to Bibliocracy” he remarks: “A vibrant democracy/A rampant hypocrisy/this is the PNG way”.  After having surveyed the contemporary life style of modern PNG, Dom declares: “Our newfangled philosophy/Is Melanesian Christianity/Welcome to Bibliocracy”.
In his other works such as “Message from the Estate of Icarus” and “Dear Honorable Sirs”, Michael is appealing to the conscience of the nation to wake up. He appeals to writers and artists to use their writing to speak against corruption:
“When the Poet’s voice is silenced/There is only after echo of fading thought/It is the snuffing of candlelight at the market table/When the Poet’s voice is silenced/Truth is raped at the Public Gathering Places/And Beauty is fed to bastardized Beast.”
Such strong sense of social criticism and appeal to national conscience to hear itself, drives home Michael’s observation of the society. He will not be silenced as the following poems reflect: “Limericks for the clowns in parliament”, “Limerick on the Exim Bank loan”, “Obama to O’Namah”, “Waiting for 2015), and “It’s time to clean up the mess”.
All new Members of Parliament must read this poem: “Where are our leaders?” This poem is good on a poster:
“Where are the Members?/They hide in their chambers/Where are the morals?/They made Parliament a brother/Where are the ethics/They play Peter petty politics/Where are the leaders?/They fake their laurels/Where the chiefs?/They cause us grief/Where are the heroes?/They cause us grief.”
He is playing his role as the society’s ombudsman here, a function many writers in society are known to play for centuries.
The conscience of a nation is in the eyes and ears of the writer. Poets are barometers of a society’s values and how that society holds itself together against the rest of the world.
Michael Dom’s poetry is such a wonderful read, packed with so much wisdom, sharp social criticism of the state of society, and the ever-present gaze of the poet on us as Papua New Guineans.
I kind of like the idea that Michael is proposing to us that if we are to make any criticism of our leaders and even of ourselves, we must do so with some sense of higher purpose rather than firing broadside bullets that go off the mark. Choosing literary forms like poetry and prose as vehicular transmission of our ideas, social political commentaries allows a writer to weigh the value of his or her expressions.
He has accomplished his goal of writing this book. It is a collection that demands to be read by every Papua New Guinean. Some of the poems in this collection first appeared in Keith Jackson & Friends: PNG Attitude, Crocodile Prize, The 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 Crocodile Prize Anthology, A Collection of Poetry-At Another Crossroads, The Musings of an Assistant Pig Keeper, the BBC 2014 Commonwealth Games Poetry Postcards, Soaba’s Storyboard, Poetry Soup, Stella Magazine, PNG Resource Magazine and The National newspaper Writers Forum. Phil Fitzpatrick, author and publisher of Pukpuk Publishing, agrees with Michael Dom as the conscience of the nation: “If the politicians prefer not to listen the ordinary people will. A poem is a powerful weapon, especially in the hands of a master like Michael. One day the politicians will rue their deafness.”
One of his contemporary PNG writers, Kelakapkora Sil Bolkin, the author of The Flight of the Galkope says: “Michael Dom has poetry written all over him and is surely the most talented of Papua New Guinean poets. His poem can drive a plebeian to madness, a bureaucrat searching for civic virtue and a politician hanging his or her head in shame for self-serving.”
It is such a pleasure reviewing and endorsing Michael’s work. I wish him well and encourage readers to read his other books.

This article first appeared in the Weekender, The National of 14 July 2017 at https://www.thenational.com.pg/the-estate-of-icarus/.

The paradox of the alienation and preservation of culture

22 October 2020


CHANGE is an inevitable threat to art and culture in Melanesia. And change is constant in the universe.

Art and culture is formed from belief systems, ways of viewing the world, making things (material culture) that are either inherited or part of contemporary life.

And it is the active participation of the custodians of these things that are most likely to guarantee their preservation.

The last Melanesian Arts and Cultural Festival was held in Port Moresby from 28 June to 11 July 2014.

It presented a great opportunity for Melanesians to demonstrate their arts and crafts and traditional practices while learning and appreciating from each other.

While the event was important for this and for building friendships and solidarity, some noteworthy issues also surfaced. One was the potential for certain cultural objects – what we can call  material culture – to be abused and alienated from their original contexts.

To me, removing certain arts, crafts, traditional practices and cultural symbols from their natural cultural milieu without consideration of their sacredness or preservation amounts to abuse.

An art or craft removed from its creativity, ingenuity and traditional context can lose its significance. This can also be so if the person who crafted the object remains distant or hidden. This then gives rise to the object becoming a mere product or commodity.

Loss of cultural significance has dire consequences for the people concerned. Among other things, it may include cultural, moral and natural meanings and values. Important among these is the loss of identity of the people directly connected with it.

The knowledge, art and skill of salt-making were displayed at the Melanesian Festival of Arts and Culture. Traditionally the skills needed to extract salt were a closely guarded secret and the process had strict practices and protocols.

Those who had the knowledge and skills were a select group of people who had to observe strict taboos.

The practice of salt making remained sacred as long as it was conducted in its natural context. But taken out of that, it became a just process and lost its cultural significance.

With the introduction of modern salt, traditional salt making has become merely an art with little or no cultural significance.

Yet paradoxically, given what we observed at the Festival, the preservation of culture will entail that a commercial element be inserted into its management.

That commercial element can be introduced through a business model – perhaps developed by the National Cultural Commission (NCC) with the assistance of the Office of Tourism, Arts and Culture and the National Museum after a comprehensive audit and analysis of traditional and cultural arts, crafts, and practices including totems and beliefs.

I am thinking of this being tied to a sleeping giant such as the tourism industry.

Look at the provincial flags. They are the unique symbols of each province. Only provincial governments should have the legal rights to manufacture and sell their respective flags.

Arts and crafts such as bilum manufacture, carving, song and dance, drama and story-telling seem to depend on how well we market them.

There are also certain cultural practices, objects and crafts that will best retain their value and significance if they remain in the possession of select groups of people.

The framework for this can be provided through policy and relevant legislation which will demarcate what can be displayed and made available for public consumption, what can be traded or sold as a commodity and what should be guarded against abuse, maintaining sacredness and exclusivity.

Of course, the very act of publicly displaying certain dances or artifacts can open the door to the diminishing of their value and significance. It is open to its abuse and prostitution. Don’t we lose our culture and identity in this way? Or is it that promotion can lead to preservation? Such questions can make us re-examine our practices and attitudes.

Consider a mask usually worn at the conclusion of an initiation ceremony for young men. Given the exclusive nature of the ceremony, the mask could only be worn by the newly initiated. There were certain practices and protocols associated with it.

But given that this initiation ceremony died quite a while back, the mask has merely become a commodity for display to tourists and to be placed in museums. I have seen some worn at festivals and singsings in Simbu and Jiwaka, but without the significance tied to the initiation ceremony.

The mask I am referring to is called Gerua in my dialect. With colourful decorations, it is usually worn as a headdress and can extend up to two metres above the head. I am told that the Gerua is not as common as it used to be.

I would encourage the younger generation to participate in initiations in their own cultures and in their own communities in which the meaning and significance is pure. These ceremonies inculcate among initiates harmony with nature and harmony with people, and provide the tools of how one can negotiate and live with both man and nature for a purposeful and successful life.

I have heard from friends from other parts of the country that they have felt stronger, confident and enlightened after undergoing an initiation ceremony. We are all responsible for preserving and promoting aspects of our cultures that can help in uniting and building our communities, and ultimately nation building.

After all, culture is who we are and has a lot to do with how we advance.

This article was originally posted on PNG Attitude on 16 June 2015. It is an entry in the Crocodile Prize PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum Award for Essays & Journalism. The complete article with comments from readers may be read here https://www.pngattitude.com/2015/06/the-paradox-of-the-alienation-preservation-of-culture.html.

A Good Plan for PNG Literature

22 October 2020


Establishing a sustainable literature in Papua New Guinea has always been a struggle and it’s a fight not yet won. Phil’s book, ‘Fighting for a Voice’, tells the story

TUMBY BAY – Someday soon perhaps, Papua New Guinean prime minister James Marape will put away his golf clubs and meet with a delegation of writers.

These writers, twice stood up by Mr Marape already, are hoping to present him with a petition calling for the PNG government to support a national literature that deserves recognition and requires support.

The writers, representing hundreds of their colleagues in PNG and writers worldwide, are ready to discuss with Mr Marape the benefits that will flow from a buoyant national literature and what needs to be done to achieve it.

And what needs to be done includes recognition of the value of writers, the encouragement of home-grown literature, getting books authored by Papua New Guineans into the education system, supporting local writers’ associations and assisting with a national literary competition.

The writers would like the prime minister to make a general statement of commitment to Papua New Guinean literature and to establish a working group to investigate how a national program to advance literature may be realised in practise.

An important part of the working group’s brief would probably include the establishment of a National Literature Board along the same lines as exists in other countries.

With such a broad commitment and implementation structure in place, planning could move on to more specific proposals, including but not limited to the following ideas.

The Board could be set up and housed in the National Library and supported by the Education Department but be independent of those institutions.

It should have its own funding, and a director and committee drawn from senior writers and other relevant groups.

Its overall role should be to actively promote Papua New Guinean literature in a way that avoids nepotism, favouritism and corruption.

The Board should manage an annual grants program for writers, editors and publishers.

It should also establish an annual national literature prize, along the lines of the Crocodile Prize, across a range of categories, with an annual anthology drawn from the best entries in the competition.

All this should be coordinated with an annual Writer’s Week circulating each year between cities and provinces. The board should publish.

Over time, the board should encourage, fund and support the establishment of writers’ centres in all provinces. These would ideally be housed in individual provincial libraries.

The board should play an active role in ensuring that appropriate works by Papua New Guinean writers are integrated into school curricula. Every school and educational institution should have included in its library a section including works by Papua New Guinean writers.

Beyond the establishment of a Board, the government needs to re-invigorate the national library system. There must be an adequately resourced public library in every provincial capital.

Given the parlous state of the national budget these proposals should be rendered into a staged and progressive plan involving not only the PNG government but businesses, churches and relevant international bodies.

If readers have other suggestions, you comments are welcome.

As background it might be worthwhile to read how literature was encouraged in Papua New Guinea before independence. An excellent history is provided here.

And also there is my own book on how the Crocodile Prize was established, ‘Fighting for a Voice’, and how it operated so effectively, if not without challenges, during its glory years.

This article first appeared on PNG Attitude on 11 June 2020 at https://www.pngattitude.com/2020/06/a-good-plan-for-png-literature.html.

Breaking Barriers in PNG: Caroline Evari

22 October 2020


For International Women’s Day 2020, we’re getting to know the pioneering women across the Pacific and Papua New Guinea who are breaking barriers and creating change for the decade ahead. Caroline Evari began writing at the age of six. She is now the author of 28 children’s books and has published her own book of poems, Nanu Sina: My Words, all while supporting the World Bank and it’s nine projects in Papua New Guinea and raising two sons.

What inspired you to start writing at such a young age?

After I had completed first grade in school my family moved from Port Moresby back to my father’s village in Oro Province. I was supposed to continue on to grade two, but there weren’t any schools nearby so I spent my childhood days writing. I would just walk around the village with a notebook and describe whatever I could see. It was my way of keeping myself in school. 

Did you eventually go back to school?

Yes, I moved back to Port Moresby in 2001 and started school again. I realized I was doing so well in English compared to other subjects because I spent my time away from school writing. So, I was able to catch up quickly. 

Later on, when I attended Marianville Secondary School, we were required to keep school journals every year, and that’s how I discovered my talent for writing poems. At the end of grade 12 I had written a total of 60 poems and they now make up the majority of my book, Nanu Sina: My Words.

What do you love about writing poetry?

For me, poetry is the best way to express myself. Most of my published poems were written when I was growing up, at a stage when I was living away from my parents. I missed them, but I wanted to achieve something with my life so I had to somehow let go of those emotions and thoughts. I find poetry a really good way for people to let go of any stress, anxiety, depression or anything that may be pulling them down.

How did you get into writing children’s books?

In 2017, I wrote two children’s stories titled Zuki the Crocodile and Old Mulga and the Pawpaw Tree for the organization Library for All. The stories were then developed into picture books in 2019 and distributed to schools around PNG. 

Given that I work with the World Bank, I could see that we shouldn’t just advocate for Papua New Guineans to learn to read, we need to also write our own stories and have them published into books. The majority of the books in schools are not written by us, they are written by people from other parts of the world.

I had this idea: what if we started teaching our people to write their own stories? Or what if we started teaching each other to express ourselves through poetry? That would have a big impact. I started reaching out to schools and teachers and motivating them to encourage their students to write their own stories. I give free talks in schools on why writing is so important and I hold children’s story writing workshops.

You’ve been lucky enough to be mentored by popular PNG writer, Rashmii Amoah Bell – what was that like?

Yes, in 2016, along with 45 other PNG women, I contributed to the My Walk to Equality anthology that Rashmii edited – it was the first ever collection of writing from Papua New Guinean women. 

Rashmii then mentored me for the first six months after I published my book of poetry. It was really important for me because Rashmii is someone that I look up to as a role model. We don’t often have Papua New Guinean women as  professional mentors. We are always looking outside PNG for inspiration and motivation. But, in this case, I was very privileged to receive that mentorship from her, and it was really inspiring for me.

Do you think there will be more female PNG writers in the future?

Yes, and I do believe we already have a good number of Papua New Guinean female writers. There’s a lot of change and positive responses from communities with women being more vocal, and it’s really a good thing to see. So I hope that this momentum of women writers gaining support will continue to increase. 

What are your hopes and plans for the future?

I’m already working on another book of poems, but my hope for the future is to write more; not just poems, but more children’s story books. I want to help capture our culture and languages that are dying away.

I also hope that my two sons will grow into responsible men that are able to respect and understand women. I want them to accept women as they are; seeing women as equals in society. I think that’s my biggest aim for my sons’ future. 

This was a feature story of the Pacific Women Breaking Barriers series on 28 February 2020 at https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2020/02/28/caroline-evari.

See Here These Loose Threads

22 October 2020


Cathy Kata “looping”, traditional hand-weaving technique used to make bilums  (Dan Lepsoe)

An entry in the Crocodile Prize
Kina Securities Award for Poetry

See here these loose threads,
See how I hold them in my hands
And how I roll them on my thigh?
Tired and wrinkled they both are,
My hands and thighs,
But still strong enough
For this work and some things.

Your hands are soft and new,
Like your thighs and that's good.
You have far to go young girl,
Many things to learn; I will teach you.
I will make a bilum for you.
A string bilum, like the kind I used to carry kaukau from the garden
But you will not carry kaukau as I did.

Still you can learn to make this bilum
So that you too can learn to tell our story to your daughters
And they will grow strong and wise like you.
Then one day when you sit at your hearth
And spin your own string,
With calloused hands like mine,
On weary thighs like mine,

You can remember everything good that has happened.
These thighs your Bubu loved, when we were young.
Yes, he did, many, many nights – that is good too, the best.
And may you find a man to do likewise for you.
These hands raised a family.
Held them, fed them, fought them, taught them and loved them every day.
Until they each went their own way, to make their own families.

So now these hands spin loose threads to roll them into string,
As once they held my children to my bosom.
Now, these wrinkled hands recall to me my children in each thread.
The colours are feelings,
The textures are events,
The lengths of string form chapters of their lives;
As I weave my tale, I see them in my heart.

I smell them each, like smoke from wood that brings tears.
I feel them each, as I feel these threads in my hands grow stronger.
And weaving them, string through string,
Every loop and hitch and tie, binds us together, each to each.
They are our lives, woven together to make a story.
But what will it be for, this story made from strings?
I will take it to my garden – to bring kaikai home;

I will sell it for some money – to buy a new gaten sipet;
I will make it for a new bride – to show my pasin;
I will give it to my daughter – to make her bilas shine;
I will send it to my tambu – whom your Bubu loved best – to show my lewa;
Or maybe I will send it to another land where they do not know this kind of life.
Maybe they don’t know about this brave old woman and her bright young daughter,
And maybe someone else will see my story in this bilum and learn from me too.

Tok Pisin words translated:

Bilum – a bag made of woven string
Kaukau – sweet potato
Bubu – grandfather or elderly person
Kaikai – food
Gaten – garden
Sipet – Spade
Pasin – good manners, proper expected behaviour or conscientious way of acting
Bilas – dress or usually traditional costume and finery
Tambu – in-law
Lewa – heart or love, good feelings and affection

This poem first appeared on PNG Attitude on 01 December 2014 at https://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2014/12/see-here-these-loose-threads.html.

Compensation for freelance artists in Papua New Guinea during COVID-19

22 October 2020

PNG Coalition of Freelance Artists

Compensation for freelance artists and cultural and creative workers following the closure of licensed venues and ban on gatherings of over 50 persons (COVID-19)

We the undersigned freelance artists and cultural and creative workers in Papua New Guinea are calling on the Controller David Manning, MBE, DPS, QPM, to immediately and diligently compensate us for the loss of income caused by the closure of licensed venues and immediate ban on gatherings of over 50 persons due to COVID-19.

The most recent pandemic measures released on 5th October 2020 and Pandemic Measure Number 9 (‘Business and Social Measures’) has devastating economic repercussions for self-employed workers in the local cultural and creative industries and we think Pandemic Measure Number 9 has not been done in good faith.

We all support these measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 and believe that they are critical to public health. However, it is essential that the government take into account the urgent needs of freelance artists and cultural and creative workers who suffer the consequences and on whom the financial repercussions will be dramatic.

Currently, all of the contract payments promised to freelance artists for cancelled events will not be paid. In the event of force majeure or ‘Act of God’ such as this, people and organizations that pay for our services are not required to fulfill their financial obligations. Contracts are no longer valid as the events have been cancelled and no amount of money is paid to artists. The financial consequences of such a situation have immediate and also long-term repercussions. For the majority of freelance artists, we earn a regular income from live performances before patrons at licensed premises. The cancellations in progress, therefore, represent a substantial loss to our finances for the fiscal year.

Since many of us do not have access to employment insurance, our status as vulnerable freelancers place us in a very difficult and highly anxiety-provoking situation.

We reiterate that immediate government financial support that takes into account the urgent needs of freelance artists is essential. The financial consequences and repercussions of this crisis will be dramatic for us.

Many artists are already living in a precarious financial situation. Absorbing a loss of income in Papua New Guinea since 23rd March 2020 at peak season is unsustainable.

At the start of the year, Prime Minister Marape announced incentives to give a ‘helping hand’ to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs). Mr. Marape also said that the government would work with the central bank and commercial banks to defer loan repayments by three months or more for those citizens, and businesses, with bank loans. We read that the government was also working to use its business stimulus fund budgeted in 2020 national budget as security to lower interest rates on business borrowings.

With this petition, we request similar incentives and pandemic measures. We also request serious policy and legislative interventions for the vulnerable self-employed artists and workers in the cultural and creative industries in Papua New Guinea.

There are over 200 signatures and counting. Please visit https://www.change.org/p/prime-minister-james-marape-compensation-for-freelance-artists-in-papua-new-guinea-during-covid-19 recruiter=1032214726&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=psf_combo_share_abi&utm_term=facebook&recruited_by_id=593390d0-2ddf-11ea-a863-f1181ff88c89&utm_content=fht-25283328-en-au%3A4 to sign the petition and show your support.