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.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Poem: a trilingual experiment by Ruth Kamasungua & Irene Kawakami Gashu

THE LEARNER (English Australia)

Tall, short, thin, fat
Young and old
They come in all sizes and shapes
They swarm this place
In the sea of busybodies

Books, books, books
They sink (bury) their heads
In the quick sand
Of knowledge
With great determination
Their thirst never quenched
Nor does knowledge ever end

MAN I KISIM SAVE (Tok Pisin Papua New Guinea)

Longpela, sotpela, bunatin na fetpela
Yangpela na lapun
Ol i kam long kainkain seip
Ol pulimapim dispela ples olsem bi

Buk buk buk
Ol i painim het bilong ol
Long wasan
Bilong kisim save
Wantaim strongpela tingting
Hangere long dringim dispel wara bilong save ino save pinis
Na save tui no save pinis
(Tr: Ruth Kamasungua)

EL ESTUDIANTE (Spanish Argentina)

Alto, bajo, Delgado, gordo
Joven y Viejo
Vienen en todo tipo de tamaños y formas
Arrebozan este lugar
En el mar de ocupación

Libros, libros, libros
Sumergen sus cabezas
En la arena movediza
Del conocimiento
Con gran determinación
Su sed no se apaga nunca                                                                    
Ni el conocimiento termina

(Tr: Irene Kawakami Gashu)

The above poem THE LEARNER was written by Ruth Kamasungua.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Exile and the kingdom recalled

Mr. Mike Kuta at the Waigani Campus.
When Albert Camus wrote about the phenomenon of “exile and the kingdom” in the fifties of the twentieth century, he had in mind the plight of individuals ensnared somewhat in the sentiments of obligation on whether to serve the self or the establishment of which they were part. There is a strange sort of pull in this, towards the philosophical arena of whether one is part of a group or not.

But Camus did offer some options for the mind that may be curious. Either serve the kingdom or be done with it all.

That philosophical brooding, looked at closely, simply means that one can either be part of that crowd that believes (for example, in the existence of a nominated deity) or does not. Thus, the endless debates on whether there is God or there is not, whether one is a scriptural being or a scientifically evolved one, and so on.

Whatever the situation, and in the final analysis, and this is where Camus excels as a literary artist and philosopher, the choice is absolutely that of an individual’s. We are free to make choices for ourselves.

On the subject of freedom of choice, Camus’ contemporary, Monsieur Jean-Paul Sartre, had this to offer. Feel free to choose what you want to do. But do so with commitment and responsibility. Here, of course, we are reminded of that oft-quoted Sartrean phrase, “Man is condemned to be free.”

And so the philosophical rigmarole of the hours drones on, as endless as time itself can contain it. Now when we translate all that Western philosophical jargon into our own PNG setting what do we have? Choices abound. Indeed they do. Our PMV driver, for example, can change course right in the middle of thick traffic any time he wants to and at will. And we as his faithful clients or passengers render support because that is the PNG way of doing things, especially in cities or predominantly urban areas. 

No so in the rural areas. There they think differently. Thus, if our PMV driver (and assuming by PMV we mean personal mind valuation) along with us, his faithfully and worthy clients, found himself conducting similar antics in the village of which we would all be familiar, the reprimanding encountered by the villagers there would be enormous. The driver along with his passengers would be posing as total strangers to that environment, more as intruders than guests or visitors. When that feeling of difference became visible we would automatically consider ourselves as “outsiders” in Camus’ sense of the word, albeit the same sort of meaning as the word “exile”.
A feeling of “exile” comes about when one feels unwelcome, isolated and abandoned simply because one’s conduct and behaviour differs considerably from the norms accepted by the majority. It is the same sort of feeling that enables man to take a different direction once in a life time. And in that change of direction he finds himself doing great things, achieving so much which he would not have done in his former setting. But all that has to start somewhere, such as learning and adapting to new rules, new codes of conduct and most importantly making new friends along the way.

Thus, an isolated geographical setting such as Paiamanda or Kepa villages somewhere in the outskirts of Kikori, Erave and generally the southern higher altitude parts of our country, would certainly be the areas where we would feel all the more isolated and exiled. There would be nothing unwelcoming about the people of that area but that our presence and unusual modes of human conduct and behaviour would prove reproachful to them. There things are so well organized, particularly in traditional settings, that our city conduct and manners would warrant rebuke and amendment on the first day of our arrival there. But we would have to conform to such a setting in order to share that wonderful moment of exile with them.

And here’s storyboard’s point for mentioning that area of our country. Imagine finding yourself as a teacher somewhere there. City born and bred what would your reactions be? How would you feel? Exiled, of course.

When a colourful personality like Mike Kuta who comes from that same general area describes life in that part of the world we are awed as much as moved. And as he explains the setting of each village, the location of schools and the simple ways of the people there we get that general feeling that this particular area can be considered one of the most exiled in our country. Some reflections on his life as a simple school teacher serving that area for almost 20 years reveal to us the meanings of the words exile, abandon, isolation and neglect. In his classrooms or what appear to be so we see images of traditionally attired adults having just interrupted themselves from work at their kaukau gardens to listen to this man tell them about school. Some come with offerings of kaukau and kumu and that seems to be all: you cannot find tea or sugar, rice or tinned protein there. But they are all happy, content. And yet so much isolated and exiled.

Mr. Kuta has certainly done a lot for that are and he must be commended. One of his touching anecdotes is the one about how, at a school close to the Porgera area, which is supposed to be one of the richest areas of our country, he and his pupils are honoured by the presence of a district school inspector who comes to visit but only for a few minutes by helicopter. Amazing. That simply aggravates our sentiments of exile and we have reasons enough to hear our teeth gritting at the thought of this. How can Papua New Guinea do this to us, the simple teachers of the rural areas?

In the end, of course, Mr. Kuta would make a choice of a lifetime for himself. Go to university and that way try to gain enough knowledge and experience to return and start re-building what he had started. There are various schools around that area which had been successfully helped with permanent buildings through his negotiations and hard work.

Mr. Kuta is currently undertaking studies at the Open College, NCD Campus, of the University of Papua New Guinea. During seminars and tutorials of the various courses that he participates in he stands out as the most colourful and wise member of the university community whose populace is dominated by a very young generation of scholars.
Recent graduates of UPNG.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Some finer moments of writing

This article marks a year of storyboard’s appearance as a column in the National Weekender (excluding these blogs). This would certainly call for celebration but as storyboard looks around, the world rather appears grim and desolate.

There are several things that make storyboard feel this way.

First, the loss we feel when we see all our privileges get undone. In literary terms, this means unlearning all that we have learnt throughout the year for no other purpose than to better ourselves in order to look at the world from a fresher perspective. It also means getting rid of the past in order to assume a new meaning in existence. All that, looked at seriously and from a philosophical angle, means precisely our sure progression towards that which needs to be understood and accepted.

Second, the need we see of re-orienting ourselves after that process of unlearning. This simply means accepting things as they are but doing something else more, like explaining these to the minds that are curious.

Third, making do with the new ideas we have adapted and treating them as our tangible moments of reality. These become our points of reference, our goals to strive towards.

Thus, and coming to the point of this article, the very idea of putting thought onto paper.

Now if we have been paying attention to the sentences above we would have noticed that none of the ideas expressed therein are storyboard’s own. They are merely repetitions of ideas first expressed by post-colonial/literary critics such as Spivak and her followers. They believe sincerely that we should do away with what we have learnt such as in the craft of writing and adapt new ways of representing thought and opinion on paper. What they are asking for there is this sentiment of originality. So now you get storyboard’s point.

He has been contributing views and opinions to this column for over a year now and even so does not seem content with what he has done. He sees no point in celebrating anything. And that is the true value and meaning of wanting to be a writer. To be a writer you must be prepared to accept that what you have produced so far is still left wanting in so many ways. And you must never give up trying even if you have no followers at all.

Here are some reasons why storyboard does not feel content with what he had been offering through this column for over a year.

Firstly, we have not succeeded in establishing a writer’s association even though the prospects looked good. It is true that over the years we have talked about such an organization, but that it was often difficult to find the necessary manpower which would commit itself to becoming that organization’s office bearers. This does not mean that we are not capable of forming an association. Point is that we are not committed enough.

Secondly, we lack that self-publishing drive. This means simply coming up with a good manuscript, soliciting the necessary funds to cover editorial and associated costs and then of course finding the publisher to print the finished product. Now there are many who may argue that this not be an encouraging practice in Papua New Guinea. But storyboard will insist that this is the only way to get published in our country. The question of distribution and marketability will have to come later.

Thirdly, we have conducted too few if not no workshops at all in writing which would help us re-charge the batteries for creativity in our chosen fields of vocation: feature writing, poetries and fictions, all modes of writing. Malum Nalu of The National newspaper and storyboard considered this possibility for the young writer (particularly around selected work environments) but this did not eventuate.

Finally, and because we lack that sense of originality as noted earlier, what we write now and which we regard as creative literature, are merely borrowed ideas. We have become stereotypes more than creative writers and that is sad. The list of our shortcomings would go on.

And now to look at the bright side of what storyboard has been offering throughout the last twelve months or so. The reader will probably realize that following storyboard week by week meant that we have indeed been learning the craft of writing all this time. Your best teacher in literature and creative writing is the one who lives and writes by example. Here, let us give storyboard a bow.

However, rather than elevate the man to the point of self-submersion and all that stuff (some people do get carried away), let us pin point those areas where storyboard might have posed as a source of influence on the young writer. The first and obvious one noted is the way language itself has changed in the life of that young writer. The writer became simpler in his choice of words and whatever it was that he wanted to say was clear enough to be understood. Do not try to be difficult. No one will be pleased with you if you do that. If you feel you are an academic then say so in the language that can be best understood by the layman. Otherwise he won’t follow you.

The writer also learnt the dangers of the cut and paste syndrome. Never copy another’s work. This is an important point. Last Friday’s editorial of The National Weekender carried that warning.

The writer, as well, learnt what it means to believe in oneself, to accept that he can write and that he can be marketable. On the subject of marketability a lot of those groomed by storyboard as students of literature and creative writing in their time now boast of being themselves in demand for jobs here and there. That is good to see. But the point worth noting here is that all those lessons learnt were not entirely restricted to the classroom environment. Some of those young journalists outside, we are aware, cannot do without the pages/page views of storyboard nowadays.

But enough palaver. The last twelve months have been good for storyboard. And we do believe that he has proven himself to be a living example of what finer poetry there is, what finer prose there is and what finer moment of writing can be for a Papua New Guinean willing to become a writer. It was worth the trouble after all, those last twelve or so months. And we do, of course, acknowledge our stakeholders for making storyboard ever accessible to that reader who wants to become a writer.
Sandra Kwafen, a third year political science major at UPNG, spares a moment for a few thoughts on paper.