Friday, May 14, 2010

Used Books and Second-Hand Clothes

Appeared in Steven's Window, a column in The National newspaper's Weekender. Published on Friday 14th May 2010, p.5.

The security guard was disinterested in me as I showed no enthusiasm that day. My wife pulled me into one of those large second-hand clothes barns in Port Moresby. This particular barn is located across the road from the PNG Institute of Education and next to Club 22. The tailoring company Luk Poy Wai was once the merchant there. Inside, as I took a peek, more out of curiosity than as a scavenger for second-hand clothes. I was there because my wife said we could find nice clothes since we had little money to spend. I truly disliked the idea out of my personal distaste for second-hand clothes. I’d rather buy new quality clothes that transform me to think for myself, than wear some else’s used clothes. The thing with me is that I can never rid myself with the awareness that there is more to life than wearing second hand clothes and thinking in those clothes.

My children had followed their mother into the second-hand clothes racks arranged in neat and tidy rows. It was a Saturday morning on the Easter weekend. The barn was one of the few shops open that morning. We had to find a new white shirt for my son to wear for his Baptism in St. Joseph’s Catholic Church at Boroko the next day. Knowing how upset my son would be I followed my wife and the children to this second-hand shop. Whatever it was we had to get this white shirt.

It was not the second-hand clothes, the security guards, the customers, the cashiers, or the size of the barn that captured my attention. It was the sale of used books that attracted my attention. The racks holding the used books were next to the entrance. At first I thought it was one of those outfit selling books that have second rate intellectual content and are only good for pleasure readers; books that are unlikely to be recommended as text books in my literature courses at UPNG.

As it appeared, the books on sale were of both kinds, serious, and entertaining; some encyclopedia, children’s books, novels, and self-help books. I studied the encyclopedia, thinking how these could have been donated to the schools, instead of selling them for money. The longer I stood there I selected several books that I never thought I would find them in a place where second-hand clothes are sold. The books were sold for K1.00 to K2.50, depending on the size of the book. Books are not a priority in this second-hand clothes barn. A cashier and a guard, anxious and watchful, let me finish my business, without giving them any pleasure.

I spent close to K15.00 that day for 6 books, an amount that is insufficient to buy a new book of the same title in a bookshop. I was glad to spend my money on books that day. I even bought one book featuring Indigenous Maori women role models for my 14 year old daughter. The treasure I stumbled on to in this second hand clothes barn made my day. The books that I bought include: Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats, Witi Ihimaera’s Bulibasha, Vikram Seth’s An Equal Music, Hingi McKinnon’s When the Kehua Calls, and Angela Carter’s The Magic Toyshop. Of these writers I have met Angela Carter, whose other book I already have in my private collection. I met Carter when she gave her talk during her visit to the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, in the early 1990s when I studied for my MA degree in English. Carter’s writings are intriguing exploration of folktales and modern day juxtapositions of feminist ideas to rewrite the gendered subconscious and transformation of the feminine self.

Then there is Witi Ihimaera, the senior Maori writer, a tall figure in Pacific literature, and a great friend I have so much respect and admiration for. I have followed Ihimaera’s writings since I was a second year student at the University of Papua New Guinea in 1985. His book Pounamu Pounamu, which means Greenstone, Greenstone was the first collection of short stories published by a Maori writer in 1972. Since then it has been reprinted several times. Ihimaera has since then published several award winning books such as The Matriarch, Tangi, The New Net Goes Fishing, Whanau, Whale Rider, and other books to make him one of the leading Pacific Island writer of our time.

The opportunity I had in meeting Ihimaera came about in a surprising way. I was in Honolulu several years ago at the University of Hawaii to participate in the 6th Fall Festival of Writers featuring the writers of the Pacific and the Caribbean. I was fortunate to be included as one of the Pacific Island writers, together with the two big names: Witi Ihimaera and Albert Wendt. There was also the Solomon Islands writer: Jully Sipolo Makini, one of few women writers of the Pacific. The Caribbean was represented by George Lamming via satellite, Michelle Cliff, and Nalo Hopkinson.

During the book signing ceremony at the University of Hawaii Bookshop I asked him to autograph his books Pounamu Pounamu, the Matriarch, and the Whale Rider. He asked for my name so that he could sign the books. On hearing my name he almost dropped his pen in disbelief. He said in embarrassment that he had read and followed my work all this time and never thought the day would come for us to meet. He told me also that his students at Auckland University were also studying some of my writings.

It was a great moment to remember as it was also the week I had the opportunity to see two films made from the writings of Witi Ihimaera and Albert Wendt: Whale Rider and Flying Fox in a Freedom Tree, respectively. Both writers have always been my big brothers and role models.

The point of my story: Used books are as valuable as new books and second hand clothes.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Universities and Knowledge Production

First impression of the article is in Steven's Window, The National newspaper of PNG. 07 Friday 2010, p.5.

Here is what I think universities are and what universities ought to be doing. Universities are institutions where the production of knowledge and dissemination of that knowledge is pursued to achieve understanding and wisdom.

A nation is dependent on a university to supply the manpower it needs to propel forward. Each university is established through an Act of Parliament to carry out its duties and responsibilities. A university endeavors to fulfill the national expectations by being mindful of the objectives it has set for itself to deliver as a corporate entity through high academic achievement and excellence to promote the well-being and progress of the nation. Government universities are institutions operating on public funds to carry out their duties and responsibilities.

In recent times a three men Committee investigating the performance of universities in Papua New Guinea released a report of their findings. The report was damaging to all public universities highlighting key areas where public universities seem to fail. The report suggests that the quality of graduates has dropped to a point where our graduates are viewed as half-baked products of a poor system. Many of us with more than 10 years of teaching feel accused of under performance and under achievement in terms of the graduates we produced.

An independent review of Papua New Guinea’s six universities, as reported in the media made 13 recommendations for the Australian and PNG government to take into account. The reviewers were particularly critical of the public universities, framing them within a blanket generalization as failing to meet the demands of the industry more than the social well-being and progress of the nation. Prudence tells me there is more to this report.

Several questions beg answers from the conscience of the graduates of public universities: Does this mean that national progress happened without the input of universities through their graduates? Does this mean the bureaucracy machinery is still operated by poor quality graduates and half-baked certificate and diploma holders? Does this mean the civil society organizations and service providers have no graduates from our public universities working with them to improve the quality of life and understanding of their rights as free and proud people? Does this mean that the academics with more than 20 years of service in some of the public universities have failed in their duties to produce top quality graduates who now head departments, executive positions in the public and private sector, and who are now also national leaders? Does this mean that the degrees our graduates have are not recognized by universities around the world? How did some of us, most of the national academics teaching at the universities, get our Masters and PhD degrees in prestigious international universities in the world?

The views about universities failing to produce quality graduates is an old sentiment worth paying no consultation fees to individuals with no teaching experience at these public universities in the last 20 years. Many of us live the struggle and difficulties faced every day to deal with uneven ratio between teaching staff and students due to increased number of students every year, unavailability of teaching resources and technology, cramped office spaces with poor ventilation, small prison-like classrooms and offices, poor employment conditions, and unpopular management decisions that dampen the spirits of hardworking academics in some of these public universities.

The issue of output is determined by the condition of the machine itself, to use a metaphor, if I may. If oiled, greased, and checked by the operators, the machine will maintain quality production. The public universities have had little or no development to their physical infrastructure, improvement in teaching and research facilities, and are left to pity themselves against an imperative propelled in the direction of the new kids on the block. Yet, the public universities are the ones who produced the graduates who now teach in these new universities? It makes no sense to argue that the degrees awarded in public universities are associate degrees. What is an associate degree then?

Public universities are by design created to serve the wider or specialized national interests. They must exist and operate to serve the people of Papua New Guinea in two ways. First, stand as higher institutions in Papua New Guinea, for the people to have their children earn a university degree so that they too can participate in national development through their children’s contribution.

Second, public universities exist on the basis of history and the merit of each institution to produce teachers, medical doctor, lawyers, accountants, engineers, and specialists in different fields. In as much as possible they are not to reduplicate their courses and purposes for which they were first established. Duplication and replicas are against the spirit of government funded universities, established under their own original Acts of Parliament. The point is made when public universities find themselves under the spotlight to cut and save costs every year, restructure academic programs, and manage resources and facilities with the knowledge that the national government is not going to increase funding any more than what it already gives.

I have been part of the University of Papua New Guinea for many years. I am proud of UPNG’s long tradition of academic excellence and intellectual foundation set up by the founding professors and administrators of the University of Papua New Guinea in 1963. University of Papua New Guinea adorns its academic credibility as the national university in Papua New Guinea with high academic tradition measured by producing more under-graduate degrees holders who go onto earn Masters, PhDs and other qualifications in prestigious international universities in Australia, New Zealand, USA, Europe, Japan, China, Singapore, and elsewhere. The few who have gone far afield away from traditional training grounds in Australian and New Zealand universities know that the University of Papua New Guinea is the benchmark of academic standard.

Everywhere I go in our country I have not failed to see a UPNG graduate in charge or is part of a team working hard to build PNG.

Fiction and Reality Juxtapositions

The published version of this article appeared in Steven's Window, a column in the Weekender magzine of The National newspaper of Papua New Guinea. Friday 30th May 2010, p.5.

I recommended Moses Maladina’s Tabu, (a fictional account of an interracial affair in colonial Papua) to students studying my course on literature and politics in Papua New Guinea. I have two reasons for doing so. First reason has to do with how writers use fiction to rewrite history from their own perspectives. The second reason is that the colonizers went through great lengths to legislate their conduct and relationship to those that they colonized.

In the book, Maladina considers the colonial period under Lieutenant Governor Hubert Murray’s administration. This is juxtaposed against the postcolonial period under the Sir Julius Chan’s period as Prime Minister. Murray’s period was marked by unpopular administration policies and colonial legislations, especially the Eurocentric and ridiculous laws enacted to protect the Europeans more than to protect the ‘natives,’ the subject of such legislations. Sir Chan’s period was marked by the Bougainville Crisis and the Sandline Affair controversy.

Sir Hubert Murray passed the Ordinance on the protection of white women in the Territory in 1926. The legislation came to be known as the White Women’s Protection Ordinance. According to Amirah Inglis: “It was a piece of legislation discriminating in its provisions, harsh in its penalties, and startling out of character with Murray’s rule and its effect on Papuans, no history of colonial Papua, can be complete without an explanation of it. The White Women’s Protection Ordinance was the most significant expression of one aspect of the relations between black and white in the colony, the fear of sexual attack by black men on white women and girls: the “Black Peril”. The extent of this fear is perhaps hard to believe today, but any reading of the papers of the day will uncover it.”

Tabu, is a historical fiction centred on the legacy of a love affair in colonial Papua New Guinea. The novel opens up with the execution of Sitiveni (Stephen) Goramambu, the first indigenous man trialed and hanged in Port Moresby on the 29th of January 1934 under the racially prejudiced law. It was a law created, not to protect white women in the colonies, but to protect the property of the white men, and his prejudice against the black men in the colonies.

The period of Murray’s regime was marked by the European fear and anxieties about Papuan’s transgression of the colonial space, property, and comfort zone. Such transgression was considered dangerous and damaging to the ego, pride, and authority of the European male in colonial Papua. As is clear in Amirah Inglis’s book Not a White Woman Safe: Sexual Anxiety and Politics in Port Moresby 1920-1934, published in 1974 by the ANU press.

The link between Maladina and Murray’s action is that what Murray did was similar to what Maladina is doing now, by sponsoring a Bill to amend the Constitution in order to protect the interests and actions of the leaders, rather than the general interests of the people of Papua New Guinea.

It seems to me that Maladina is repeating what history has taught us about the creation of legislation that is biased towards the ruling authorities in the pretext of creating laws to protect the interest of the majority of people. Maladina had learnt from Murray’s experience that all he needs to do is get the National Parliament to amend the Constitution so that the powers of the Ombudsman to investigate leaders who breach the Leadership Code are erased. The real reason for making the amendment to the Constitution is not to make the work of the Ombudsman effective, but to disarm it from operating as a watch dog.

Soon after the second vote a cross section of the society spoke out about the danger to PNG society this amendment would make. After the third reading takes place to amend the Constitution it will open the floodgate of corruption, nepotism, and abuse of office. The new amendment in Section 27 subsection (5) of the Constitution will also affect the Section 16 of the Organic Law on Duties and Responsibilities of Leaderships. Inserting subsection (5), essentially, stops the Ombudsman Commission from intervening, investigating, or holding leaders responsible for questionable conduct, false pretence, squandering, and misuse of public funds. This is a ploy considered mischievous by the Ombudsman Commission “of the view that this proposal is not clear in terms of the mischief it seeks to address.” The new amendment to the Constitution removes the teeth of the public watchdog.

The Ombudsman Commission is against the Constitutional amendment as noted in its public lecture at UPNG on Friday 23 April 2010. It is now public knowledge that the Ombudsman Commission had rejected all of the proposed amendments that Maladina had submitted for the First Reading in Parliament. Maladina then withdrew the proposed amendment because it was not in concert with the spirit of the Constitution.

It is reassuring, however, to know that we are a conscientious people, able to speak against sectorial interests and manipulative leaders at work in denying the spirit of the Constitution that bind us together since 16 September 1975. It is also reassuring to see civil society organizations such as Community Coalition Partners Against Corruption, NGOS, and Transparency International (TI) mobilizing public support against Parliament making amendments to the Constitution in the next sitting of Parliament.

I am left to think fiction imitates reality. Murray made a mistake that tainted his political legacy. It seems to me the ghost of Sir Hubert Murray has reincarnated itself with the sole purpose of reaffirming the rearranged psychological conditions, postcolonial anxieties, fears, and contiguous tensions between the rule and the ruled. Is Moses Maladina about to do the same (as Murray) in pursuing the amendment to the Constitution by getting the Parliament to pass it?

What is a possible intervention against the proposed amendment? A constitutional intervention is possible if the Ombudsman Commission, as an authority entitled under Section 19 (3) of the Constitution, can make an application to the Supreme Court to give its opinion on any provision of a Constitutional Law.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Gender Equality an Uncharted Terrain

This is the orignal version of the article published in Steven'w Window, a column in the Weekender of The National newspaper of Papua New Guinea. Friday 23rd April 2010, p.5.

Popular misconception, prevailing patriarchal notions of women’s place in society, and the struggle women have in articulating their experiences using their own voices seem to affect gender equality at work. The respected Papua New Guinean scholar, educator, and advocate for gender balance in workplaces, Dr. Kapa Darius Kelep-Malpo, has a recipe for addressing gender equality at workplace and in organizations. In her new book Gender Equality at the Workplace, Dr. Kelep-Malpo provides a recipe for smart organization to promote gender equality. The book is self-published with funding support from generous individuals. The book features provocative cartoons illustrated by Mr. Bunesito Thaross, a student in the Expressive Arts Department of the University of Goroka.

The book is also endorsed by Dame Carol Kidu, MP and Reverend Philip Tony Dalaka, Assistant General Superintendent, AOG-PNG and senior Pastor of the Cornerstone Gateway Church in Goroka.

Dame Carol Kidu says of the book: “Dr. Malpo’s book is an insightful analysis of this situation. Her recipe is for smart organizations with a purpose in Papua New Guinea to address the imbalance and to make gender equality in the workplace a reality. She skillfully analyses the fact that women in authority is uncharted terrain for men…It is imperative that politicians and bureaucrats who design policies and programs for gender interventions listen to the voice of our indigenous researchers to ensure appropriate responses to address the present gender imbalance in the executive levels of the workforce in Papua New Guinea”.

In his own words, Grand Chief Sir Paulias Matane, the Governor General of Papua New Guinea, also speaks highly of Dr. Kelep-Malpo’s purpose in writing this book: “She strongly believes that smart organizations thrive and move forward, because women and men work together. She highlights many examples in this well researched and written book.” I couldn’t agree more.

Gender Equality at the Workplace has 13 chapters on gender equality and organizations smart enough to make decisions based on the skills and merits of individuals rather than on the traditional gender divisions.

Dr. Kelep-Malpo declares: “Literature on organizational management abroad illustrate that smart organizations are thriving both on their amalgamation of feminine and masculine leadership qualities as well as the general gender differences in the workplace…Global literature and media coverage illustrate that more and more women in developed and developing counties are entering the executive arena.”

To illustrate her point how this is possible in Papua New Guinea Dr. Kelep-Malpo gives a historical background to the promotion of gender inequality before moving on to addressing specific recipes for success in promoting gender equality at workplace. After each chapter a number of questions to consider are given.

In the chapter on smart organizations that value human resources, Dr. Kelep Malpo says: “Smart organizations are led by visionary leaders. The organizational vision emanates from an organizational culture which promotes competition and experimentation of ideas, knowledge and skills…Utilizing the best of both genders is part and parcel of the experimentation.”

“Papua New Guinea has to catch up with countries that are benefiting from the realization that equality between women and men is important in the successful transition to a market economy,” is the discussion in chapter 3. National development must not ignore the constitutional requirement of gender equality in Papua New Guinea.

Chapter 4 highlights the reality of gender equity and practices in the workplace in PNG: “Generally, the obstacles to women’s full participation in their country’s development and in public life can be grouped into these categories: legal and management; cultural, and social and economic factors, including access to and ownership of resources.”

The need for Papua New Guineans to be educated on gender equality at all levels is by Dr. Kelep-Malpo: “the lack of a consistent support towards national women’s actions from the national government …The absence of women in the national government could be a contributing factor to this inconsistency.”

In chapter 5, the challenges, women leaders face are considered. Women leaders are often tested by their male colleagues. “When women occupy leadership positions, the organizational landscape changes,” Dr. Kelep-Malpo writes in her 2003 study. “It becomes uncharted terrain for men, full of hidden bumps and potholes…because many men experience a sense of disorientation working for women because the top of an organization is where men make their last stand to be themselves and uphold what they think is the natural order of things.”

Beginning at chapter 6 and ending in chapter 10, the author describes how and why men test women in authority. Gender stereotyping and biases, cultural beliefs and practices, work ethics affected by gender and early childhood experiences, and finally Christian beliefs and practices are some of these factors.

In the last three chapters Dr. Kelep Malpo delivers the recipe for smart organizations with a purpose in Papua New Guinea: organization members have diverse personality, training for gender equality in the workplace is must, and the necessity of gender equity and diversity policies.

Dr.Kelep-Malpo says: “Smart organizations perceive staff diversity as an asset which can lead to enhanced learning, flexibility, organizational and individual growth, and the ability to adjust rapidly, and successfully, to the changes in the external environment…[to] promote and reinforce policies recognizing diversity and its richness”.

Dr. Kelep-Malpo has succeeded in writing this book. It is a well researched and articulated book written in simple, clear, and objective language that reinforces the sense of a successful woman speaking for herself and her lot. Second, it is a book that has the potential to become a workplace manual or reference in organizations and work environments in Papua New Guinea.

Dr. Kelep-Malpo is among leading PNG women in the likes of Dr. Cecilia Nembo, Dr. Orovu Sepoe, Dr. Anne Waiko, Dr. Angela Mandie-Filer, Dr. Julian Kaman, Dr. Anastasia Sai, Prof. Betty Lovai, Dr. Rose Kekedo, Mrs. Rose Ninkama, Ms. Margaret Taylor, Mrs. Josepha Kanawi, Judge Cathy Davani, Ms. Winnie Kiap, Ms. Helen Seleu, Ms. Margaret Elias, and Norah Vagi Brash.

The book is a compass for those navigating the uncharted territory of gender balance.

Gender Equality Through Children's Art

The edited version as in the title was published in Steven's Window, a column in the Weekender of The National newspaper of Papua New Guinea. Friday 16th April 2010, p.5.

PNG school girl's winning drawing in 2007.  Waigani Primary School in the National Capital District was chosen by the European Commission as the site to launch its Drawing Competition 2010. The competition is now in its fourth year. This year’s competition is based on the theme of Gender Equality. The competition was launched on March 08th, 2010 coinciding with the International Women’s Day.

The International Drawing Competition on gender equality has been conducted by the Commission since 2007 with great success. The competition aims to mobilize and raise the awareness of both children and adults around the issue of gender equality as well as giving EU Delegations the chance to involve the relevant national and local authorities in the planning and implementation of the competition, in close collaboration with local schools.

To have the competition made relevant to Papua New Guinean children the European Commission worked in partnership with the Department of Education’s National Literacy and Awareness Secretariat.

Eight to ten year old children in developing countries are invited to express in a drawing vision on the theme of gender equality. This year’s theme proposes to reflect on how girls and boys, women and men, can together make the world a better place.

I was privileged to have witnessed the official launch of the competition at Waigani Primary School this year. I turned up at the school for the launch more out of curiosity than as an invited guest of the European Union. An extended invitation from Mr. Willie Jonduo, the Director of the National Literacy and Awareness Secretariat (NLAS), was reason enough to tag along for the launch of the drawing competition. I joined the official party without knowing the background of the European Union International Drawing Competition.

It was only later, after the launch and during the refreshment that I requested from Catherine Eminoni of the European Union office in Port Moresby to give me printed materials on the competition.

The European Union published a book written and illustrated by children in the 2007 competition. Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the Europeans Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood policy introduces the little booklet containing all the background information.

Ferer-Waldner’s introduction helped me to understand the history and background of the International Drawing Competition. She says: “We have made this little booklet for you. Take a good look at the beautiful drawings…They were made by girls and boys from all over the world; from Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe and from an island in the Pacific Ocean.” The completion is so popular around the world.

One of PNG’s own daughters won the competition in 2007. Young Florence Adjouyniope Metta, 10 years old at that time from the Saint Francis Primary School of Koki, National Capital District won the competition. Florence drew a garden of men and women doing the same job. The caption to her drawing reads: In a garden in Papua New Guinea, a chief made man for woman and woman for man. He said we are all equal in everything we do and see”.

Papua New Guinea and Namibia were the winners in the category Africa Caribbean Pacific, while Brazil and Colombia won for the category Latin America, Afghanistan and Nepal for Asia, Georgia and Ukraine for Europe and Jordan and Syria for the Mediterranean.

Praising the talents of the children of the world Benita Ferrero-Waldner says: “I was very impressed by the many excellent drawings … for this competition. Overall, we received more than 10,000 drawings from all corners of the globe. This really exceeded all our expectations. It just shows how many talented children there are, and how many want to contribute to improving the fate of women and girls”.

It comes as no surprise to me to see one of our children win the competition. The many stories and drawings our children do at school can be sent to the competition immediately.

The Education Department supports the artistic development and appreciation of the arts and culture of through its Lower Primary Syllabus on Arts. The Department believes that art is an important factor in social and spiritual development. “Arts subjects at Elementary, Primary and Secondary School levels put this into practice. Students become aware of their place in the community by learning traditional skills, such as storytelling, acting, singing, playing instruments, dancing, painting, drawing, weaving, carving and construction. Arts activities are the basis for exploration and creativity in areas such as artistic expression, such as performance, dance, song writing, musical composition, painting, pattern-making and design. These develop the whole person.” I hope that this competition or any other art competitions are seen as opportunities for our children to contest using their natural talents and skills of storytelling and drawing. Teachers and parents must encourage their children to send in their entries to this competition.

Outside of the Education Department, The National newspaper encourages our young readers to draw, write and tell their stories in The Young Life, a children’s own publication appearing every Wednesday for our young enthusiastic readers and writers.

Parents and teachers must encourage our talented young Papua New Guineans to submit their drawings and stories for the competition.

The stories and drawings in The Young Life have been the source of many of my writing classes at the University for adults enhancing their creative writing skills, editing techniques, and book productions. Our children have taught me and others to write and tell our stories in our own way without worrying about the mechanics of writing and stylistic elements.

Our children have, through their stories and drawings, in The Young Life, made us, the adults appear ashamed for not ploughing the creative national psychic and advancing our skills of writing to make Papua New Guinea proud.

The competition dateline is 14 May 2010. The selection of the winning drawings by a jury of European children in June 2010. Final award announced in November 2010.

For further information contact Catherine Eminoni of European Union office or Mr. Willie Jonduo, Director of the National Literacy and Awareness Secretariat of the Department of Education.

Keep Writing Arnold

The edited version appeared in The National newspaper on April 10th, 2010, p.5.
Losing the manuscripts for his third novel, Arnold Mundua wondered if publishing his first two books were worth it. He had spent his limited resources and time to research for the novel. He hopes to complete the story began with Yaltep, the protagonist in Ignatius Kilage’s My Mother Calls Me Yaltep. Arnold is devastated with the experience of losing his laptop with the manuscript in it to some lazy thieves. All he wanted to do was to stop writing altogether. He felt disrespected for being a writer.

Arnold wrote and published two books early this century. His first book is A Bride Price: a Novel (2003) and the second book Elep Returns (2005) is a story of a tree and its conversion into paper—an experimental fiction using the literary device of personification. Arnold is a forester by profession, based in Mount Hagen, Western Highlands Province. Arnold is from Gembogl district in the Simbu Province of Papua New Guinea, but spent most of his time in other provinces like the Morobe, West New Britain, and West Sepik Province. Arnold has a Diploma in Forestry, received at the PNG Forestry College, PNG University of Technology.

Arnold is not the average forester, he writes profusely, as if talent was something he would not run out of. His first novel A Bride’s Price, a semi-autobiographical novel, set in the Simbu Province was published by the CBS Publishers & Distributors of India. To introduce his novel to many Papua New Guineans I wrote a review on it some time back. His second book Elep Returns, is a story of a tree named Elep that grew in Kandrian on the south west coast of West New Britain in Papua New Guinea. The second book is also published by the same publisher in India.

I gave a raving review of his first book when it came out of press. Recently, he wrote to me expressing his disappointment that he was one of the PNG writers that the Education Department ignored. In his own words, Arnold says: “I spent close to K20,000.00 to get my two books published in India and shipped to me, only to find that there was no market for them in PNG. I distributed copies to the relevant government institutions and departments, but strangely received not a single response, let alone an acknowledgement letter of receipt to all my letters. I really don’t know why, but I am truly and deeply upset particularly with the Education Department for not seriously considering my book: Elep Returns: The Story of a Tree & its Conversion into Paper. This particular book was intended for Grade 8, 9, 10, 11, & 12 students in PNG schools, to give them an overview of forest, foresters and forestry in PNG. It is simplified English, illustrated and made ideal in thickness for any school child to read, enjoy and learn about the forest industry in PNG. Many adults found the book very educational too but I really don’t know why the Education Department ignores it”.

Arnold’s second book falls under the category of personification, a literary device used by writers to add human characteristics to non-human things. The book is suitable for use as a text in the Language and Literature curriculum, environmental studies, or as a social studies book. The quality of the book is that it is written in a language that is playful, fun, and recognizable. I’m surprised it was never picked up as an interesting book for use in our schools.

Elep Returns is the story of a tree, named Elep, which grew in Kandrian on the south coast of West New Britain in Papua New Guinea. The book relates Elep’s own adventurous story, blossoming from a seed to a big tree, its metamorphosis to log of wood and then its export to Japan, its transformation as paper, import of paper by Australia and then its export to the country of its origin for printing of school certificates. As a matter of coincidence, Elep, now in its new incarnation, as school-leaving certificate, has the proud privilege to display the academic excellence of the boy who used to relish its nuts while in the Kandrian village.

This science fiction, profusely illustrated, is written by a Forest Officer and brings to focus the knowledge and information of the various stages in the growth of a tree, working of the Forest Authority, mechanism undertaken from the stage of its export to the pulping of log and to its transformation as paper in Japan. The voyage of the logs from PNG to Japan and then to Australia, in the form of paper, provides a kaleidoscopic view of the places the ship sailed through and the beautiful ambience of Japanese ports and cities. It also describes the distinct nature and skill of Japanese workers.

Arnold Mundua’s two books are in my professional view, relevant books for use in different levels of our education systems. The first book A Bride’s Price is a book I would recommend for use in upper secondary schools and university level courses, but more particularly it will make sense for every young Simbus to read and reflect on the experiences and perhaps consider writing their own books to capture their own experiences.

The second book Elep Returns is narrated in a simple way and keeps the reader engrossed. In view of the educational nature of this novel, it should be essential reading both for the young and the old alike. It is a must for every school level, colleges, university, and institutional libraries.

Arnold makes the point that writing books is one thing, but when the books are ignored by the responsible entities there is no point in writing anymore books: “It is sad to admit that such ignorance has led me and many other potential writers to lose interest to commit anymore time and energy on new books… because there is no incentive or motivation in book writing in PNG from the government and public alike.”

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Back on Blog

Dear Friends:

Be assured the blog has not gone out of operation or moved away from this spot. The blog will remain active for as long as it can.

In the last four weeks I have not posted any new views on this blog. The main reason has to do with the versions I wanted on the blog. The versions that appear on this blog usually get published in the Steven’s Window, a column in the Weekender of The National newspaper of Papua New Guinea. The last four articles published in The National had not been posted on my blog.

The published version in The National newspaper is an edited version. I don’t have the edited version in electronic form until after the newspaper posts it on its website.

The decision I am taking now is to publish the original version on my blog. The main reason being that I own the original idea and the way it was expressed. I’d like to maintain that authenticity on my blog.
 I am now posting the four articles in their original versions. I ask that you update your reading with these articles.

Let me know what tickles you from my views expressed in this genre.

From time to time I will add new unpublished stories to the blog.



Thursday, April 1, 2010

PNG's Poet at Large Remembered

The tribute appeared in The Weekender of The National newspaper on Friday 26 of March 2010, p.5 under Steven's Window column.

THE plan was for me to travel to Manus around June this year to launch Andyson Bernard Kaspou’s book.

I was working on a collection of poetry written by Mr Kaspou, at Sherwood Forest of Nottingham, South Yorkshire, Great Britain. I had also planned to include a rare interview I had with him last Christmas.

The news of his passing on Feb 28 reached me in a vague way leaving me unsure about the truth or falsity of the event. What I am used to is hearing about the eminent visit of the poet-at-large, Andyson Bernard Kaspou to Port Moresby once in a while. He was a Manus man, living life to its fullest back in his village.

The late Andyson Bernard Kaspou had his home province at heart, but found it necessary, once in a while, to travel to Port Moresby to visit his savannah wantoks, relatives, brothers, sisters, in-laws, and new additions to the tribe of writers, artists, musicians, scholars, academics, English teachers, students, and others with a passion for literature, books, arts, and music.

He came, he saw, he commented, and left us in the savannah to wallow in his piece of mind and words of wisdom. He occasionally flew to Port Moresby to participate in conferences and workshops where writers meet. His contributions to such gatherings were invaluable. They made some of us look mediocre, showing us that though we live in Port Moresby, we are simply too aloof as writers and scholars because of our failure to contribute meaningfully to the community of creative Papua New Guineans.

He spent his time in Port Moresby hammering home his message of hope for Papua New Guinean writers and intellectuals to remain true to their people in their representations. The fiery, often latent nationalism of the 1970s rubbed off and remained in Kaspou until his demise last month.

He drummed into my head the idea that we can never be free of the Western history we inherited from our colonial past unless we learnt what Russell Soaba’s artist saw through the eye-holes of his father’s skull after he returned from overseas.

In the moments I had with him since our first encounter in the mid 1980s to last Christmas, Kaspou impressed upon me that whatever I was doing had so much value to our society. It was as if he was the unasked-for guiding angel, whose rare visitations always left unanswered questions about our role as Papua New Guinean writers in the wind. As writers, he reckons we should do more, say more, and articulate our experiences as Papua New Guineans.

A sense of purpose permeates all he said. “All writers must return to the village, their birth place at least once in our lifetime to appreciate the earth and cultural environment that nurtured our beginning”, he said in our first interview, published in the Savannah Flames: A Papua New Guinean Journal of Literature, Language, and Culture. In that interview I remember the poet-at-large making the ultimate statement that no matter where we go in this world, we Papua New Guineans will always return to the place where our umbilical cord lies buried.

Writing this tribute to a silent man whose life might never be known to other Papua New Guineans I am obliged to remember him at this time.

Andyson Bernard Kaspou’s life began and ended in Ndranou village in the Manus province. He came from the Timoh lineage of the Poltru-u major clan. He has four children.

He graduated from the University of PNG, majoring in anthropology with a minor in social psychology. He also has a diploma from the then Goroka Secondary Teachers’ College (now University of Goroka) and a diploma in foreign service from the Papua New Guinean Institute of Public Administration. He obtained his masters degree in sociology of development from the University of Sheffield, UK in 1988. He has travelled throughout the Pacific, Asia, Middle East and Western Europe

The late Kaspou did a variety of jobs including teaching, academic research, editorial work, diplomatic service and consultant to the PNG Government. From 1990-92 Kaspou was the director of the research unit of the Office of the Prime Minister. From there he returned to Manus to start the

Ila Ime Research Centre, a community based organisation. He was there until his death.

The late Kaspou was lecturing at the PNG Institute of Public Administration when I first met him. The Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies had just published his collection of poems in Bikmaus: A Journal of Papua New Guinea Affairs, Ideas, and the Arts in June 1987. It was the year he won the poetry prize in the PNG National Literature Competition. He also published his poems in Ondobondo, the PNG Writer, ASPECT, and the PNG Teachers’ Association Journal.

Kaspou was preparing to launch Akara Nwihe, his poetry collection, in June 2010 when he passed away. Akara Nwihe in Akara language means everything in life can be attempted. And true to these words, the late Kaspou lived the Akara philosophy: “If one can conquer any challenge, that challenge once conquered becomes ultimately nothing. In other words, what anyone can do, within all human frailties and limitations, you can do it too, even at a better level.”

Kaspou derived his wisdom from his father, John Kaspou Yoke, to be able to see life in this philosophy.

That was the Andyson Bernard Kaspou, the PNG poet-at-large that I came to know and respect.

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Living in a Candle City

This review of A Rower's Song was done by Russell Soaba in his column Russell's Storyboard in The National newspaper.  Friday 26 March 2010, p.4.

The poet is a rower, that dutiful oarsman, guiding the society along, “in the currents that [sweep] this land, for many moons and many nights, under the Southern Cross...”

We, as the poet’s guests, need only jump on board and witness with him what he sees, what he hears, how he responds to the noise and voices around him, as he takes us out to the deep sea of thought, wonder, expectation and, of course, revelation.

Thus, Steven Winduo’s new publication, a collection of poetry titled A Rower’s Song. Published in 2009 under the imprint of Manui Publishers, a self-publishing venture, the volume runs for 146 pages and sells at the UPNG bookshop for K60.

It contains 112 poems. More than half of this number is devoted to the “candle city”, observations of life and daily activity in the urban settlements of Papua New Guinea. The remainder covers observations from the poet’s travels overseas as both writer and scholar, to places such as mainland America, Canada, Hawaii, Samoa and New Caledonia.

While the poems set in Papua New Guinea are written in a tone that we are familiar with, about the ordinary and the everyday occurrence, all of them, in fact, cause us to pause momentarily and ask: “Wait a minute. What am I reading here?”

As we thus ponder over each poem, the persona of the whole collection, not Steven Winduo as the poet or writer, gently nudges us: “Mystery deepens everyday/I yearn for the spoken truth/In art, poetry, music/Even in their surreal moments/there is a story behind them.”

And so the persona takes us further in this journey of poetry that is constantly in motion; that will never stop buzzing. There, in A Rower’s Song, in every poem, in every line, is everything the reader would want to know about the “candle city”. In this city, no one sleeps. Everyone is awake, not for the fear of some natural calamity or the fear of war, but to “create betel nut wars, peddler wars, lamb flap wars, second-hand clothes wars, settlement wars” and even “create traffic chaos.”

Sounds familiar? “And watching the dawn break”, continues the persona, “I have forgotten all this time [that] the candle city is their world.”

So to the “candle city” is devoted the first segment of this volume of poetry. In there, we learn of betelnut vendors, doing all they can to earn their keep. We learn of a young woman whose father, a tucker shop owner, wants her to become a lawyer but she cannot because her peers and the habits of the candle city divert her attention to other interests. We learn of a politician promising his voters so much just to become a total stranger to them the moment he wins the elections. We learn of music turned up full blast at a certain neighbourhood and the shouts and screams and cursing of the new generation of youth drowning that genre of cultural sensibilities. We learn of how much we earn each fortnight and how much we lose to income tax or “troubled youth who cannot sleep at nights”. Then, of course, we take a peek at our pay slip and lo and behold, all this, this becomes our life style in the candle city. “Every day after work/we go to the shop/we spend all we have to keep the house/our living is a borrowed one/the money we earn disappears/on the first day we are paid/our lives are sold to someone.”

Yet the persona does not merely take us on such a trip just to dump us if the weather gets rough. He rather assumes a new voice with the next poems that follow. Poems that lament, that instruct, that remind us of our sense of belonging, such as when we spare a thought for our betelnut vendor: “I wonder how you go home/every evening... to your family/do you count your day’s earnings first/or cook your meals before doing your accounting.” And above all, poems that give us direction in our search for destiny itself. One such poem is “Date with Destiny” and those familiar with the Waigani campus may recall the same poem that forms part of the mural art work leading to the students mess. But the best of these would be “Urban Natives” and “Glimmer of Hope” in which we learn, respectively, that “we brought the village to town/we are the urban natives/we will never return home” and “never mind the corruption debate/give the people a glimmer of hope/let the candles burn in the city.”

As a concluding remark on what it is that we must do for the candle city the persona suggests work. We must never stop working such as the poem “Scent of Jasmine” intones, when the persona stays up at night working and looking forward to when his children will wake up to a “new morning scent of jasmine”: “They sleep while I work/And listen to their breathing/I am thinking of them/Someday they will know/What I thought tonight/About their future in this world.”

The second segment of A Rower’s Song takes the reader to another level of poetic consciousness. This covers reflections on things observed during the poet’s travels overseas. What is significant here is Winduo’s experiences in meeting, knowing and working with poets from other cultures. Through Winduo, we see our persona, both as poet and scholar, re-living the thoughts, experiences and insights of great men of poetry such as T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, Walt Whitman and Borges et al.

It is always an exciting experience for a Papua New Guinean to find himself at certain settings once walked upon by these great men of poetry. What was Walt Whitman thinking when he last visited this part of America, or Auden that college or university? Other literary figures the persona mentions include Langston Hughes and Mark Twain, and in this volume of poetry we feel certain affinities developing between the PNG poetic consciousness and the American one as “we walk on the same road twice/Or more, to be reawakened/To the slightest of ruffle, or/To the sudden awakening of the spirit/That brought me all the way here/And would take me all the way back.”

In all, A Rower’s Song becomes an important addition to Winduo’s checklist of publications, where the literary flame, like the savannah years of the University of PNG, will never stop dancing.

Students of literature and the general reader alike will find this volume invaluable. But for the enormous amount of influence that the author has within our region of the Pacific what better way to say of his work than to quote one of his fans from Kamehameha schools in Honolulu, Hawaii: “I would like to say that I enjoyed the subject of your poem the most, the dancer. Just the subject of this poem has so much emotion and vigorous feeling lying within the name itself. A dancer, a person who uses their body to express themselves is a wonderful way to embody the feelings being expressed. I derived passion, heat, envy, love, and energy from the lines of your poem. The line, “Finger tips of flames”, brings these emotions out to me through the personification of the flames being fingers that can reach out and touch people.”

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Our Knowledge System

The article was featured in The Weekender of The National newpaper of Papua New Guinea. Friday 19th March 2010, p.5. Photo credi: The National newspaper.

PAPUA New Guineans are great story tellers. People spend more time talking than reading or writing. No matter how hard I or other literate people push people to make reading and writing part of our culture Papua New Guineans will depend on storytelling skills to get around.

We often hear the expression: Hau yu tromoi tokpisin em yu yet nau. (The way you use your Tok Pisin is up to you) It means the way in which you use language, how you talk, what you say, and to whom you say it, matters a lot in getting the results you want. Speaking is privileged more than written expression that most Papua New Guineans would rather talk their way through an issue rather than communicate on paper.
The more we keep ignoring the importance of writing our stories on paper the more we move away from recording valuable linguistic and cultural knowledge in a permanent form.

We need to encourage our young people to record the stories they hear from their parents, grandparents and relatives. I have no doubt this is already happening with many Papua New Guineans.

Recently I came across an archive of material which I had asked students who passed through the University of PNG to write down about stories and cultural knowledge from their area. These original materials remain unpublished all these years that a sense of guilt on my part began to bother me. To settle this I will include some of these in my column to highlight the value of stories in our communities.

The first piece written by Lyne Kuraiba is about the ways in which knowledge is preserved in the east coast area of New Ireland province and the Sina-Sina Yongamugl area of Simbu province. Lyne writes that in her mother’s area of Sina-Sina Yongamugl, the weather is predicted on the basis of observing the sky in the night. If people see a single star in a cold night it means the weather will remain dry and sunny in the ensuing days and weeks.

Lyne’s mother’s people also observe that the appearance of a green grasshopper at night means good fortune will follow soon after. Another cultural observation of the people is the smell of bedbugs indicating that visitors are expected to arrive in the village soon. Lyne describes how her mother’s people know that a gift of pork meat is on the way when they have the tip of their toes dug into the ground when they walk. This cultural knowledge system may seem ridiculous to those who are not from that society, but these stories provide explanations regarding cultural experiences that form the cultural logic informing the members of that society.

In traditional societies every action taken is in response to an event that is of significance to that society.
“In my father’s area of the east coast of New Ireland,” Lyne writes, “one common practice of recalling knowledge is the tying up of a betel nut tree trunk. When one sees the trees being tied up with knots then surely the trees are preserved for special occasions such as feasts, initiation, etc.”

The betel nuts are then left to reach full maturity before they are harvested for personal use, trade, or gifts to friends and visitors. People in that community know and accept that practice without questioning or breaking the taboo.

“Similar to that is the tying up of tanget (cordyline terminalis) leaves.” Lyne continues. “When a tanget leaf is being tied up by someone, then this normally means danger or that something has gone wrong.”

She gives the example of a son leaving home after an argument with his father. After some time the father discovers that a tanget near the house is tied up. This is read as a message that the son has vowed never to return to his family. He considers himself an outcast. To reconcile the difference and unite the father and son, the father must kill a pig and have a feast to bring his son back into the family.

Such knowledge remains culturally bound. It gives us all the more reason to document their practices. PNG is a fast changing society and efforts to have our cultural knowledge systems documented in any form should be encouraged. I know it is easy for me to say encouraged, but it is difficult to do everything possible to preserve our cultural knowledge.

It is easy for me to encourage students to write down the traditional knowledge and ways of knowing inherited from their parents, but the challenge with this kind of approach is to find the funds to publish the original materials produced by our students as part of their learning experiences.

Our young people bring with them a plethora of stories drawn from the rich diversity of PNG cultures. I am mindful that these stories become corrupted through a process of cultural centrifuging. Efforts to authenticate their originality can be futile. The moment a story is told, it is fresh, original, and has the power to affect its listeners. It must be written down at the precise moment.

I am insisting on the writing down of these stories to preserve their cultural authenticity and their symbolic power. A handful of local publications such as PNG School Journal, Young Life, Lost in Jungle Ways, Zia Writers of Waria, and Oxford Pacific Series feature writings and artworks of our local writers, artists, and young people, but the circulation of these publications is limited. More local publications are needed to meet the increasing reading demands of PNG children.

Perhaps we should start thinking outside of the box now. Dependent on books with no local content or authorship can lead us to ignore our own stories, histories, and knowledge systems. Should we continue to think of ourselves as incapable of writing books about our people and for our people? No I don’t think so.

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The Passing of a great Melanesian

This tribute was made to the late Dr. Bernard Narokobi on Friday 19th March 2010. front cover of The Weekender in The National newspaper. Photo credits to Staff of The National. Thanks to Margaret Daure for editorial.

In the engine room of the Constitutional Planning Committee in 1972 was a young Papua New Guinean lawyer from Wautogik Village, an Arapesh community of the East Sepik Province.

The lawyer, Bernard Mullu Narokobi, had just graduated from the Sydney University, Australia a year ago in 1971.

Born in 1945, Bernard Narokobi, who was educated in PNG and Australia, played a prominent role as the legal officer from the Public Solicitor’s Office to advise the Constitutional Planning Committee on the development of the Papua New Guinean Constitution.

The Constitution was submitted to the Chief Minister, Michael Thomas Somare in Aug 13 1974.

The Constitution became operational on Sept 16 1975, when Papua New Guinea became an Independent State. Without the Constitution, our nation would never have been born.

Dr. Bernard Narokobi passed away at the Port Moresby General Hospital on Tuesday March 9, 2010.

He was believed to have died of heart failure associated with his diabetic condition.

I pay my respects to someone who in my lifetime stood tall and carried himself with the highest degree of human dignity, wisdom, and Papua New Guinean values that all citizens young people, men and women, leaders, nation builders, students, teachers, and ordinary folk should consider the ideals of a true citizen of this great Melanesian nation.

His life is exemplary to many of us who want to serve our country without making a big deal about what we want to do to help our people.

Dr. Narokobi’s influence in the legal system, politics, and ideological development of Melanesian Ways, remains truly monumental and inspiring.
After PNG gained independence, Bernard Narokobi held several jobs, including serving as the legal advisor to the provincial government in his home province of East Sepik, he also worked as a private lawyer, a lecturer in law at the University of PNG and had a stint as an acting judge in the PNG National and Supreme Courts.

He also published a number of papers and articles, which are scattered in various journals and several books, including: The Melanesian Way, Life and Leadership in Melanesia and Lo Bilong Yumi and a short book of fiction entitled Two Seasons.

The late Dr. Narokobi was like the un-diminishing morning beacon of light raised on the hills of Wautogik to shine out its steady and assuring beams into the Ocean to guide the lost fisherman back home, to the roots, to our ways of life, our ways of knowing, and to the laws in our society that guide us onward.

His life was the embodiment of the ideals he believed in and inscribed into the constitution and the philosophy of Melanesian Ways.
The late Bernard Mullu Narokobi served as a Member of Parliament, Government Minister, Attorney General, Opposition Leader, Speaker, and the PNG High Commissioner to New Zealand.

Two occasions that the late Narokobi surprised me, even though he was a busy man and one would have thought he had no time for the little man.

The first occasion was in the PNG High Commission Office in Wellington, New Zealand in 2006. Never mind his busy schedule that day, he made time to meet me, when I traveled from Christchurch to make a courtesy call to the High Commissioner.

The second occasion was during the funeral service of the late Paschal Waisi, who had worked with the late Dr. Narokobi to develop the course Melanesian Philosophy at the University of Papua New Guinea. He turned up before anyone else to pay his last respects to the one person who taught Melanesian Philosophy at the University.

Dr.Narokobi’s philosophies, ideas, way of life, and simplicity rubbed on many of us, who held him higher than some of his contemporaries.

He was in the league of grand chiefs, influential statesmen, philosophers of eminence, and the conscience of a postcolonial nation.

For many of us now, whether we are political leaders, public servants, academics, students, or ordinary Papua New Guineans, we will have to live with the ideas and philosophies of Narokobi.

He lived a simple, everyday life without the pretense that many of his contemporaries exhibit on occasions to separate themselves from the common men and women on the streets of Port Moresby or in the thousands of villages in our country. His life is exemplary to many of us who want to serve our country without making a big deal about what we want to do to help our people.

At this time of his passing the sadness of loss casts its shadows over us in many ways.

How many great men and statesman of unblemished and impeccable record do we have? How many among us are as great as the man whose life is a public life, yet whose virtues and philosophies of life are grounded in the traditions of our people and those of the modern world that we have borrowed from the Western world, but which we now come to regard as our own?
In his own words, we regard such a lifestyle or way of life and ways of knowing, the Melanesian Way.

I pay tribute to the late Dr. Bernard Mullu Narokobi, a person of high intellect and moral standards, someone whom I have long admired his life and work, as a member of the Wewak local community in the East Sepik province that Mr. Narokobi had represented in the National Parliament as a politician, and as a student of Melanesian Philosophy and Constitutional Law.

Dr. Narokobi was more than the titles and offices he held. His life was lived in the way he imagined it to be—a simple, yet complex life, one imbued with the solid idealism grounded in the foundations of the Melanesian Way of life.

Among the many inspirational lines of the late Narokobi, I would like to leave with the reader, a passage from his seminal book, The Melanesian Way (1980): “There are those who are so ill-informed, simplistic and narrow minded as to believe Melanesians have the choice between the so-called “primitive” past of our ancestors and the “civilized and enlightened” present of Western civilization. The choice is in fact more complex than this. The secret to that choice lies in the dual pillars of our Constitution. These pillars are our noble traditions and the Christian principles that are ours now, enhanced by selected technology. It is my hope that we would not blindly follow the West, nor be victims to technology and scientific knowledge. These belong to human kind. They are no racial or national. It is the same with music and good writing. These are physically located in time, place, and people, but in their use and enjoyment, they belong to all. Thus it is with Melanesian virtues”.

Indeed, Dr. Narokobi’s legacy in Melanesia will remain, with us for a long time, as our guiding light.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Transforming Memoirs into Books

First published in Steven's Window, a column in The National newspaper of Papua New Guinea. Friday 12, 2010, p.5.

I read through my memoire I had written some years back. I am transported back in time and space. A memoire is a personal history or autobiography. I keep journals of my life for as long as I remember. I plan to publish some parts of my journals as a way of sharing my experiences with others as well as to inspire others to write. Writing a personal memoire is fun.

Many of us go through significant moments in our lives without ever recording them. These experiences remain in our memory until we cease to remember anything at all. Keeping a personal journal is one way of recording our thoughts, visions, plans, actions, reactions, and emotions felt at a certain moment in our lives. The memoire is also useful in capturing on paper an event or moments we want saved for a long time. Without a memoire we unable to have a total recall of the details of our experiences whether charged with positive emotions or negative outcomes.

As a writer I keep a journal every day. I write at least one to two pages a day. What I write in my journal is dictated by the events of the day or the events yet to arrive. I write before I sleep or as soon as I wake up early in the morning around 4.00am. At least I spend one hour between 4.00am and 5.00am writing in my journal. Without doing so I feel left out in the cold.

A personal memoire is like a friend or a confidant I talk with everyday. The best part of it is that the journal does not talk back or interrupt the flow of thoughts and ideas. It listens and records every word, thoughts, emotions, and ideas. The personal memoire is a personal record of my life. Keeping a journal is a therapeutic exercise in maintaining sanity, when the world is too difficult to deal with. The journal keeps a permanent record of visions, plans, and strategies of a person. A memoire is a book of personal memory.

At lot of what I publish were first written down as journal entries. Using these original thoughts I then weave them into the kinds of stories I want people to read.

I am now preparing to publish the journal I kept between September 2007 and May 2008, the time I lived and worked in the United States. It was also the time the US Elections Campaign trial was on. I followed with keenness the meteoric rise of the first black President of the United States of America. The race for nomination between the First Lady and now Secretary Hilary Clinton and President Barack Obama infected many of us at that time. For some reason I have always felt a pull towards the Democrats, even in the days when I was a graduate student at the University of Minnesota between 1994 and 1998. To make sense of the man destined to be the first African American President in the United States I bought The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. I read the memoire with a sense of purpose and reflection on the future.

For the sake of making sense of my rumblings about keeping memoires and publishing it later, a sneak preview of my memoire is given below. At 10.00pm on the 24th of September 2007 I wrote:

“The first time I came to the United States was when I had turned 30. I was young, adventurous, ambitious, and excited about new experiences. I had always wanted to come to America since 1986. At the time I had written my goals out in a small pocket notebook which I carried around with me. Exactly as I had set myself out to do, I did. With goals in my pocket I became a success story.

Getting what I want or where I want to be begins with writing my goals down and working towards them. The goals I have written down in the past had all been achieved. If I didn’t have any goals I wouldn’t be here. I told myself that if I could be anybody I want to be I became that person. I told myself that I can do anything successfully and I saw that it’s done.

Now teaching in the United States was also a goal I had set myself up to do. Here I am teaching and enjoying my life as a scholar in the USA. I have now set a historical milestone in Papua New Guinea as the first PNG professor of English in the USA.

As far as I can see, this is the point in my life that has taken a giant leap. Working as a professor in the United States is the best break I needed to fully explore my full creative, intellectual, and academic training and life. Back at UPNG I felt useless and had no motivation to do much. My performance level was very low. I felt lazy and unproductive. I felt that I was losing my true self.”

I returned home after a year to the same de-motivating environment I had left behind. From the memoire one can revise and recast one’s plans and strategies based on the success and failures of yesteryears.

Now preparing the memoire for publication, I asked myself whether my personal memoire is of significant interest to anyone, but myself and my children. Most entries in the memoire are straight forward, but there are others too sensitive or unfulfilled wishes not ready for exposure and public scrutiny.

Those writing their autobiography or thinking about converting their personal memoire into a published book should consider such issues, questions, and short-falls before exposing themselves. Great autobiographies inspire and encourage readers to fulfill their own life’s journey.

Autobiographies and personal memoires help steer people on the right track without losing sight of their destinies. Papua New Guinean leaders must publish books based on their experiences to inspire our young people.

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