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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, 24 June 2011

The nature of our business

Illustration as adapted by the National Weekender.
While storyboard’s followers are regarding the phrase “storyboard as a business enterprise” with amusement, quite a number of our well read and respected citizens are thinking otherwise.

An explanation of what storyboard means by the phrase “business enterprise” seems in order.

But first, let us refresh our minds with storyboard’s initial idea in proposing to run “Soaba’s Storyboard” as a column in the Weekender pages of the National newspaper.

It is to offer book reviews for mass consumption, particularly within the academia and the student populations at various tertiary and generally educational institutions throughout the country. It is to share views and opinions on PNG literature with those who are interested in literature and in books in general. Above all, it is to provide entertainment through the avenue of print media from out of a world, namely, the arts and belles lettres, which not many may be keen in visiting. But the emphasis of all this lies on the pleasure one derives from reading the storyboard. That, of course, calls for a specialized skill in writing.

Now to the phrase “business enterprise” and storyboard’s purpose in using that terminology.

To regard storyboard as a “business enterprise” means precisely that its current main contributor is not the sole owner. Here, both the teacher and student of literature will agree. Soaba’s Storyboard belongs to every Papua New Guinean not necessarily as a business enterprise in the true sense of the term, but as a forum of discussion and exchange of views and opinions on literature. Our purpose in using the term “business enterprise” is to enable this crowd of Papua New Guineans to claim ownership of the storyboard. They are thus free to exercise that sense of ownership by contributing to “the board” as guest writers, not on“cash up front” but on “a penny for your thought” basis. That program we believe would benefit the aspiring writer or student of literature in a lot of ways and without much cost from potential sponsors and stakeholders.
Subsequently, the phrase “business enterprise” becomes an advertisement, but more precisely an expression of invitation to those writers anxious to get their thoughts down on paper. These budding writers must be given easier access somehow to expressing their views than they are now. The phrase “business enterprise” in this sense appears merely as an academic rendering of “linguistic acrobatics” – nothing more nothing less. It must not be mistaken as a clause or parts thereof extracted from a Memorandum of Association/Agreement, Articles of Association or any such legal document associated with any existing business enterprise in PNG.

The phrase further alludes as a literary device to that select and special PNG crowd known as writers, artists, musicians, academics, students and the like. The term merely becomes their “badge of honour”, an expression as noted earlier inviting their active participation through the storyboard column. None of these entities wilfully thinks and operates in monetary or financial terms about how the world around them revolves. They choose to view the world from that perspective and the chances are that the whole country goes into ruin.

Writers are creative innovators interpreting the mysteries of the mind, not doers leading all and sundry into disarray.

To illustrate this particular point: Nora Brash in the early 80s solicited the services of Post Courier with a front page photograph of students dressed up as police officers doing a mock-up of, as the caption ran, “police brutality on campus”. Outraged, the executive police personnel visited the campus demanding an explanation. Nora explained that she was producing the play “Black Market Buai” (or was it “The High Cost of Living Differently”?) and perhaps a little publicity would not hurt in drawing in a good crowd of theatre goers so that she could pay her performers at the end of the day.

In essence, writers are poor. They are not meant to exercise any element of industrial power over others. They merely deserve an audience, that’s all.

A similar illustration* reveals to us that in the late 1920s* a group of thugs jumped on a plane in Chicago to travel all the way to the west coast (California) to demand an explanation from a certain film director at Hollywood why he had titled his film “Scarface”. Al Capone won’t like this, they’d advised. Thereupon the film director embarked in all humility one imagines on explaining to his visitors that all this was art and that “it reflects the times that we live in.”  “Good,” came the quick nods of approval. “We’ll tell boss that,” and back they went to Chicago.

But whatever method that a writer chooses to express an idea in, that method must never deviate from the mainstream of what we regard as logic. He is consciously testing out new ideas and ideals, doing the best he can to ensure that those ideas and ideals work for the benefit of his readers and followers. In the end it is the art of all his intentions that matters. And that art must seriously be good in the truest meaning of the word.

Several weeks ago a group of literature students dropped by at storyboard’s office to announce that they were interested in becoming guest writers to his column. It was a new sort of idea in the realms of newspaper columns and Weekender feature articles but one that storyboard himself kept mulling over for quite some time. Why not was the initial reaction then, since after all storyboard itself is quite an “enterprising” idea. So a discussion ensued. It was then that Nicko Tundem, a third year literature major at the University of Papua New Guinea, first coined the phrase “storyboard as a business enterprise”. Said Nicko to storyboard: “You are our father. We study how you live. We will live like you right through to the end.” What Nicko meant then was that Soaba’s Storyboard had suddenly become an established entity unto itself and its author did not have to be Russell Soaba all the time.
*Storyboard cannot now remember the name of the biographer of Mr. Capone that he read many years ago nor the date of that incident. That is one humorous part of the work he remembers to this day.

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