Favourite titles

Favourite titles
Whether it is "Redefining literary techniques and devices", "Justifying Papua New Guinea Literature", or "Translating the Bible into Anuki", these offer valuable reading for the paperless student of literature, and indeed the best sort of literary entertainment you can get out of Papua New Guinea. Check them out either on Soaba's Storyboard or The Anuki Country Press.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Eagle wood, modawa or mangrove

Eagle wood, modawa or mangrove. Which?

The choice is yours. A tree has many connotations as that – a tree. Trees to climb, who or what does the climbing: the metaphor of their mere existence.

But a tree, such as the modawa or mangrove, also carries with it a sense of shelter, security, even the desire for permanency.

Some trees live forever. Like the fig tree of the Holy Land. Or the modawa of Dogura. Or the oaks of the northern regions of the Americas.

Port Moresby city as a dry savannah landscape is strewn with a variety of trees, most common of which are mangoes, the rain tree and the modawa. Not a single house stands without the accompaniment of these as faithful companions to shade. Indeed, these very trees enable the city, if looked after properly, to be described as a green city.

Ruth Dom, a senior member of the Social Work section of the Anthropology Department of the University of Papua New Guinea has been building nurseries of a variety of plants and distributing them all over the Waigani campus and surrounds for many years now and no one has taken notice of her after-hours hobby. She distributes all these seedlings for planting free of charge.

Among the plants in her nursery is the eagle wood tree. Sometimes she manufactures her own versions of the tree’s so many different uses. These again she distributes free of charge for sampling.

Recently Ruth was kind enough to spare storyboard a seedling of the eagle wood which now grows at the back of his house. A good reason for him to spend some time in the garden instead of doing too much walkabout in town.

Thanks Ruthy.
Wonder if this will grow into that large territorial tree it claims to be. Alas, the mango, modawa and rain trees dwarf the poor tree all over the Waigani Campus.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

The Kaiwatara mines

The Kaiwatara mine lies deep in the isolated regions of the Great Anuki Country.
Once two partners, and it is not certain if the partners were brothers, set up that mine and built it up to carry on with the drilling exercises when an argument erupted between the two of them. A kind of duel at high noon almost eventuated between the two as they were Americans and folklore further explains that that was the cause of the mine's closure.

All this took place during the roaring 20s (1920s) and many people including villagers from storyboard's village, Ribua, went down to work at the Kaiwatara mines.
Other explanations of the mine's closure owe to the negative impact the mining industry would have had on the native population of that region. There were fears that certain fabrics of society which kept the whole of the Anuki Country together would with the young be lost to the temptations of luxury brought in by the West and the women losing their value as wives, mothers and daughters of the famous Warakouta aristocrats, the rulers of the Great Anuki Country. Thereupon, and according to folklore, a spell of ibumutu was cast upon the mining company and it subsequently wound up into a sudden and mysterious closure.
Two decades later WWII broke out, but by then the Kaiwatara mine would become a myth and legend in the annals of Anuki folklore. The second world war never reached that part of the country (world).
The Kaiwatara mine is mentioned in Russell Soaba's book of poems,Kwamra, and it is also mentioned in the last chapter of Bishop David Hand's wonderful book, MODAWA: Papua New Guinea and Me 1946-2002.
Keep an eye out for a full story of the Kaiwatara mines in the forthcoming Weekender column of the National newspaper, Soaba's Storyboard.
Photos by Vincent Kewibu, Archeology Department, University of Papua New Guinea.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

News from de king of de mountain

A thousand years

I have been up here
A thousand years it seems
But I love the hilltop

The little hut stands steady
Against strong winds
There are rumors
From the coast below
That a cyclone and more
Might be along the way
Or some familiar countrymen
Pushing a stone up this way

But my corn are growing well
The peanut flowers are in bloom
The kaukau and kumu patch as lush
And promising as ever

Don’t need no tea no sugar
No cigarettes no spak brus
No drugs no alcohol
But a nice meal of baked yams
And water from the rain storms

The hill has been my castle
And estate
For a thousand years

By James St Nativeson
Or how about some baked corn by the wayside?

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Addressing violence through literature

One of the subjects that is least dealt with in creative writing is violence. Women take it upon themselves to do so in Papua New Guinea through poetry and short stories because they see themselves as victims. The men might be too timid with the subject matter when it comes to self expression. And that is usually understandable if men believe in the slogan that actions speak louder than words.

But that attitude is rather blunt.

It is blunt because of the fact that we, as men, do not for a moment pause and consider how much time itself has changed us over an evolutionary span of some 7 or so million years. At least the scientist among us would want us to look in that direction as far as our attitude to violence goes.

But time and time again we read reports over the media of how much violence there is that is present in our society. The most common one is wife beating.

If you are a man reading this consider the following: our resort to violence comes about when we feel left out. When we no longer exercise power and authority over others. When we no longer exercise influence on others. When we submit a request and receive a negative reply to that request. Beneath that entire scenario we see the truth that says we need attention.

Men themselves have different definitions to offer regarding violence. Each one has his own ideas about the subject matter. In creative writing men tend to speak in favour of violence or against it, depending on the cultural traits of each writer. Ernest Hemingway’s Nick Adams series of short stories, for example, seems to favour violence for very much cultural reasons as opposed to Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” for very much the same cultural reasons. Yet both writers are Americans by nationality.

Albert Camus treats violence almost in the same vein as Ernest Hemingway, but his would be an ethno-Euro-centric one in favour of Western imperialism imposed on the East or the Orient. But this is one writer who does not leave violence as just that. Violence has many facets to it, he would argue in the novel “The Outsider”, the sort that has men eliminating men for cultural reasons but refraining from the use of violence when it comes to women. Women in Albert Camus’ world are regarded as partners through whom the philosophy of existentialism can best be fulfilled. If you are young and robust so be it; that can be good for your female companion. But if you are 30 plus and still have no offspring, drop everything and walk away. You won’t be of use to anyone, least of all to yourself.

And then Camus offers employment opportunities for those men who are 30 plus but who have no offspring and are still looking for jobs. In his book “The Myth of Sisyphus” he dishes out jobs to men as follows: start rolling a 50 tonne boulder uphill until you have it securely placed on top of the hill. If you cannot succeed the first time, keep doing it. That is your moment of usefulness to yourself and to others. Of course, our man there does not succeed with the boulder, but the positive aspect of that is the look of determination we see on his face when he trudges back downhill in heavy steps after the rock slid from his grip and is now at rest at the bottom of the hill. He will get down there and start rolling the boulder uphill again. He will never give up. He will continue doing that until the gods themselves become jealous.

Thus, Camus’ advice to men and their attitude to women. If your female colleague walks out on you, it could be that she is better loved by another. Accept that as truth. Truth liberates. And you need not resort to violence to ask her back.

Beneath that what Camus is getting at is that violence is best dealt with when we start looking at ourselves. We subject ourselves to some severe self cross-examination. How much do we love? What are our female colleague’s needs and wants? Are we able to answer these? Can she, above all, allow us to answer these needs and wants? In modern times women have progressed so much it would be improper if we regarded ourselves as the sole providers of this and that.

Now storyboard has been looking around for the best poem or story that could help address the problem of violence in our country, particularly that against women. Creative literature on this subject matter abounds, but to date storyboard can only recall those written by women and very little by men themselves. It would be nice if the men started looking at this subject matter seriously through creative writing. Writing, we must not forget, is free of charge. But it is the most powerful tool to use when it comes to the call of changing our society where we feel it is going wrong. It is time now for the men to start asking: Why is there so much violence in our country today? How best can we remedy that bad luck? And who else can but ourselves?

Recently it was noted that an entrant to The Crocodile Literary Prize, Bernard Sinai, had tackled the subject matter head on when he chose to write about a young bully in a PNG family setting. “The Taming of the Tiger” is the title of the story. That is a good start. What storyboard sees in that story is an allowance made for us to identify the crack in the wood of the life of our family bully. Once we see that crack we wedge in; and there you have it; the crack and the snap heard in the splitting of the wood can be at once resounding as the healing look we see on the face of our bully. 

This article is written in appreciation of Keith Jackson’s PNG Attitude which promotes The Crocodile Literary Prize. Good on ya, fellas.