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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.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Know your country

by guest writer Charmaine Sialis
I was stunned. I felt like pinching myself and probably I would wake up. Am I dreaming? But I was not dreaming. It was Friday morning of week 12. And this was really the last class of Literature and Politics. How did time fly so fast? I wondered. Mr Soaba had just wished us all the best in our studies for our exam in two weeks time.

He then looks at us and smiles. ‘The content of the exam will basically be testing how well you know your country. Do you know your country?’

“’Do you know your country?’” Did we? Was the question my course mates and I were pondering that day. As David, Clyde and I headed back to the library after class we could not help but question each other: ‘What did he mean?’

David spoke what we all were thinking. ‘I think he means we must know how literature has influenced political development – from the colonial period to Independence.’

Clyde adds, ‘Also if we know who was the first Papua New Guinean to write a book or something like that.’

‘That makes sense,’ I replied.

And it did. Suddenly it was as if someone had switched on a light bulb in my head just at that moment.

It was a bright beautiful Tuesday morning when I had entered ALT for the first class of Literature and Politics at the beginning of this first semester of 2011. While making my way to ALT, it had been obvious that the students were excited to ‘kick off’, as many would put it, with school. I too was excited but also anxious. Excited because I could not wait to see what this course was about. But I also was not sure whether I would be capable of handling this course in addition to my other three courses. So I thought I had all the right reasons to be anxious, why not? Little did I know that I would learn so much and yet so little from this course.

Our lecturer had already entered the ALT. After greeting us, he took down our names and said that he just needed our names, so we could leave and come back on Thursday. Sandra and I left the classroom together. I knew her as my brother’s girlfriend and was surprised but pleased that she would be my course mate too, even if it would only be for this one course. As we were walking out we tried to figure out what we would be learning from this course because our lecturer had not really gone into detail in the introductory lecture. But we wanted to know what was in store for us so we parted knowing that we would meet up again on Thursday and attend the Literature and Politics class.

Thursday afternoon saw my course mates and me sitting anxiously. Sandra and I were murmuring as quietly as possible to each other in the second row of the ALT. The rest of our course mates were scattered around ALT also talking quietly with each other. We all were awaiting the arrival of our lecturer, Mr Russell Soaba. I must say, when he entered and started his lecture and gave us a course outline, as he puts it, I really did not understand what to expect from this course just yet.

I looked at the course outline and noticed he had stated that the course would attempt to examine how much literature has influenced the political developments from the colonial period to Independence and right up to the present.

How will we be examining literature’s influence? How does literature influence the political development of PNG? These questions were just swarming through my head at that moment.

‘Do you know what the course is about?’ Mr Soaba is asking.

I jerk myself out of my dilemma, hoping no one noticed that I was doing 60 kilometres per minute in my mind. We all looked at him expectantly. Surely he would tell us. He would not leave us confused.

But he does not.

He merely chuckles and says, ‘I do not know too.’

‘Great!’ I exclaimed to Sandra. ‘So how are we supposed to know?’

There were some prescribed texts listed on this handout. Mr Soaba went through the handout with us.
‘After reading these prescribed texts and the recommended texts, you should know what this course is about.’

So that’s it, these books have the answer. I understood. I knew I had to read them if I wanted to learn something from this course. So I set out to read these books, thinking that it would be that simple. I would read and boom! Lights would flash and I would know how literature influenced politics. After reading through these books, however, I know now how wrong I had been to think like that. I see now that it is how I analyse these books that will count in the end because that is only how I began to understand how literature influenced politics. In the process, I learnt about Papua New Guinea.

I did not understand at first how the stories and articles which Mr Soaba issued to us to read and analyse would help us in this course. Also why every time we asked him about the next assignment, he would chuckle and say, ‘It will come, it will come.’

But I do understand now. In a way, he had started us on an extraordinary adventure through literature and then let us loose so that we could discover for ourselves its beauty and uniqueness.

Today, as the sun is shining through the curtains of the New Guinea Collection Section (of the library) I cannot help but smile. As the sun is lighting up this room, my mind is also being enlightened.

‘He knew what he was doing all the time.’ I chuckle to myself.

When he instructed us to read all the prescribed and recommended texts, Mr Soaba was equipping us with the tools that will help us to know our country. Through these books and through the seminar presentations that our class had throughout these past weeks I’ve learnt that literature moved my country to fight for its (political) independence and continues to guide her to becoming a better country. But is that enough? I cannot help but wonder. I realize I have learnt so much about my country yet so little to actually know my country.
A third year literature major at UPNG, Nick Tundem, who comes from the Wau Bulolo area, pointed out not long ago, and correctly so, that since Soaba’s Storyboard is a forum of opinions and views on PNG Literature, ownership by way of contributions should therefore go to every other Papua New Guinean writer as well. Subsequently, Nicko was invited to provide an article on Then Thousand Years in a Lifetime, but since that is taking a while to arrive we have invited this week a fellow student of his, Charmaine Sialis, a second year literature major, to take up the services of a guest contributor (as noted above).

Guest contributions are welcome at: ribuadakaipune@gmail.com.

1 comment:

Edward Misiliu said...

Charmaine Sialis-the guest writer is PNG's potential best writer. A very creative aritculated piece. Hope to read more of her publcations in future.