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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.

Sunday, 25 November 2012


Photo by Ketsin Robert.
The National Cultural Commission has once again come to easing and soothing the woes of struggling Papua New Guinean writers, artists and musicians through the staging of its National Symposium on Culture and the Arts.

This was observed at the National Museum from 7th to 9th November, 2012, and in collaboration with the National Museum, the Melanesian Institute of Art and Culture, UNESCO, UOG and various institutional and private bodies in town.

Among the highlights of this event was the launching of the locally-made University of Goroka film “The Last Real Man” by the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Honourable Boka Kondra.

The main theme of the symposium was “harnessing the arts for national development”. Papers presented were therefore of a variety of subject matter, not wandering too far off from the theme, of course, although there were one or two powerful oratories of some value during the course of the whole program.

Themes covered at this three-day long symposium included the importance of culture and the arts in nation building, cultural industries and the challenges facing these, the actual development of cultural and creative industries, problems of copyright, promotion and marketing, capacity building, heritage and the cultural industries, views representing provincial perspectives and, finally, the work of the writers and artists themselves.

Many thought that the last session, appropriately titled “artists’ corner”, which was devoted to writers, artists, musicians and film makers and headed by this writer, was the fiery one of the lot. We’ve heard the best of oratories then. Nonetheless the whole program was seriously observed and with many new things learnt within the world of arts and letters.

An interesting detail noted during the week was that of Professor John Waiko’s assertion and insistence upon the fact that while we still believe we have 800 languages there are, in fact, 1,100 plus pure languages in Papua New Guinea today, with a few others yet to be discovered. But, warned the professor, on yet another matter of relevance, if we do believe that we have that number of languages in our country we must also provide material evidence as scholars do throughout the world that we have been here on our island nation for the last 50,000 years. 

Dr Steven Winduo speaking on the importance of arts and culture in nation building pointed out that there had been so much dug out of our country by way of cultural research and knowledge with very little given back in return. And yet these are crucial elements constituting our sense of culture, nationalism and cultural inheritance or identity.

 Another speaker on this topic, Mari Ellingson, spoke of music as a significant aspect of our lives, touching as well on the problems of copyright and pirating of local musical products or in simply dealing with the industry itself in a manner that often brought little reward to the musician as an artist. “Music comes from the heart,” said Ms Ellingson, “the spirit, the soul.” Just as any other cultural unit it, too, needed support, especially in funding. Examples cited, among others, was the lack of facilities found at UPNG to cater for both staff and students of that institution.

Aside from the intellectual debates and discussions that went on there were poetry readings and music provided in the evenings, culminating each day's proceedings. It was fun kind of a symposium, thanks to Dr Jacob Simet and his staff at NCC and to Dr Andrew Moutu for providing the venue and necessary facilities for the whole program.

But, as it is often said of them, “Where there are writers and artists there is much merriment and feasting.”

Thursday, 1 November 2012


 Time to flee the overpopulated crowds of Port Moresby city and go home.

And why not?

Go home, meet up with cousins and forget the night mares of the city, say the children.

And why not?



Thursday, 25 October 2012


No one feels and knows the impact of good literature until he or she experiences it first hand.

When we read Alice Wedega we think we are reading stuff that is conservative, out-dated, irrelevant. But the teachings of this great woman remain as powerfully contemporaneous as ever. When she says, for example, that for a Milne Bay woman the choice is either to serve God or marry, she ain't kidding.

There are no in-betweens.  The in-betweens usually spell disaster. Those that are descendants of this great writer must therefore be extremely careful how they conduct themselves and the life style they choose to lead. You either are married or are serving God.

In a Sophoclean drama things are much more tragic than that. Antigone, following the rules of those higher laws, marches forward to meet her fate. In a Shakespearean tragedy it is wise to take heed of the lessons imparted in a young general who calls his would be followers "curs", or a mighty general misled into thinking that his young bride is unfaithful.

And so with us in our country. And how we regard literature.

For those who study literature know that as far as the laws are concerned you are the invisible legislators, your are the unofficial ombudsmen of your society. The literature you create remains as powerful as Shakespeare had willed it in composing Coriolanus or Othello.

And so the message left by Alice Wedega remains as powerful as ever. Listen, and you will never go wrong.


Wednesday, 10 October 2012


O friend
O fellow mariner
How can I ever forget you?
At 16 I sailed into your harbour
tired, hungry, lost somewhat
yet fascinated when I woke up the next day
from the Koki Mission Station
to look upon your stilled waters again
your ever enduring beauty.

There and then did I first

set my sight upon you
my eternal lover

I will never forget you

I will never abandon you
my Port Moresby!

I first set my foot on Port Moresby's soil at 16. The township then was the most beautiful in the Territory. There were no such places as Tokarara, Gerehu, Waigani, Erima or Morata. These were bush, the hunting grounds of the Motu/Koitabus. 

In fact, as recently as the 70s we could see some maganis come out at dawn, lick their paws before the morning sun and start chomping away at the lawn that surrounded the Waigani campus. That is how fresh and hygienic Port Moresby was then.

Today, the whole city is so overridden with trash and filth not a single one of our so-called "social engineers" knows how to clean the mess up. Sad... so sad.

This post is dedicated to Gerard Dogimab and Michael Midiwabu.                

Friday, 5 October 2012


 A poem by Naka Tauna

Darkness steals across the sky
An explosion of colours on the horizon
Lit fires dot the island, mothers hush children
Aroma of smoked fish mingled with coconut milk
Smoke spirals endlessly towards the heavens
A musician’s tune drifts slowly on the breeze
Scent of jasmine and frangipani saturates the air

A lone fisherman pulls up his catch
Creatures of the night stir and fly hither
Echoes of distant thunder

Swaying palm trees whisper softly to the wind
Rain comes falling
A moist blanket encompassing all
The stillness of the night is drowned
Cool southerlies calm the storm
Billowing clouds disintegrate like vapour
A slight breeze settles the windswept beach

The silence is captivating
A silver sphere rises majestically
Covering the sky in abundant light
An eerie glow illuminates the earth
Shards of light spill softly thru thatched roofs
Filtering thru windows, toying with dark shadows
Playing havoc with one’s imagination
Cicadas and crickets lead the crescendo
Fireflies resemble floating fairy lights

Night fishermen gather quietly
Waves lap gently, canoes side by side
Paddles slice thru water
Following a shimmering path
Ghostly apparitions disappearing into the mist
A lone owl hoots overhead
Black figures materialize out of the shadows
Silhouettes of women drift endlessly
Onward towards a secret destination
Children slumber with dreams of a new day


Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Milne Bay Cultural Day

Photos: Artie Soaba using the Blackberry.
The UPNG Milne Bay Students Union recorded yet another success story by fall of evening Saturday, 29th September 2012, at its cultural day celebrations observed at the Bisini Softball grounds.

Hundreds of participants turned up for the occasion bringing the anticipated heart warming presence of parents and supporters for the Milne Bay student population of the Waigani campus. Never before had each parent or stall participant left the festivities much, much more satisfied.

Traditional dances, mainly those of the surrounding township of Alotau (Tawala), combined with the Dobu and Misima performances became the highlight of the day. This was coupled with modern day popular individual singers and musical bands from the province. Virtually all the students walked away from the Bisini field content.

And so they should be.

Earlier in the year and throughout the President of the students’ union, Chester  Tolo'ube, ensured that his students benefited from each fund raising venture. These were observed similarly throughout the city: in the form barbeques, clean-a-thon activities and solicits of monies and gifts from individuals and charity organizations. Each small contribution gathered added up as the year wore on.

All that would culminate at the Bisini festivities that Saturday, of course.

The aim of such student union activities covers a lot of areas of paramount importance in the general trends of development in Papua New Guinea. One area of note and in the words of Chester Tolo’ube, is this: “To visit all the high schools in the Milne Bay this year in a drive to empower students in their studies and hopefully to boost the number of Milne Bay students entering tertiary institutions.”

And the President further substantiates that remark: “The funds we raised last year were used to buy four computer sets for the four secondary schools; Cameron, Hagita, Holy Name and Wesley. We also talked to the students of the variety of courses offered at UPNG and encouraged them to aim for university education.”     

To that call, there were individuals who responded favourably.  Senior members of the Milne Bay communities living in Port Moresby, such as Mr Allan Tarua, took up the challenge in organizing meetings and similar group activities to bring awareness to all the communities at large that the objectives of groups such as this student union were important. The response noted there was positive as much as favourable.
The end benefits for such ventures in participation are also worth noting. Says Mr. Tarua, “It is not only a matter of helping our students fund raise. Such activities also give us the opportunity of catching up with all the wans in POM city whom we hardly get to see.”
Even the stall owners walked away from Bisini much satisfied. One such stall owner claimed by 11.30pm the same evening that she was still counting coins from the day’s takings.

Overall, the entire cultural day of festivities was a success. Although the students’ union reported little participation from the MP’s of the Milne Bay Province, that can be understood as much of the year was taken up and absorbed by the National elections.  The Governor together with the member for Alotau Open donated K5, 000 and K2, 000 respectively. Fingers crossed some better participation will come from that sector next year.

Text: first published by Post Courier, Monday 1st October, 2012.