SELECTED BY PHIL FITZPATRICK
This is an extract from a new book by JOHN KADIBA, Night Dreams of Passing Memories. In view of Martyn Namarong’s recent article criticising elites and education in PNG, it casts an interesting light over how things used to be and how they could be in the future given the right will - PF
I TOOK SOME OF ULLI BEIER’S COURSES in my studies at the University of Papua New Guinea. Ulli had taught English Literature in the developing countries which were colonised by the British, in particular Africa.
While holidaying in London, Ulli responded to an advertisement for a founding teacher to develop and lecture in New English Writing from Developing Countries at the newly established University of Papua New Guinea.
The idea of teaching such an innovative English course greatly appealed to him. He thought that it was a fantastic opportunity to design a literature course for a new university without regard for the academic traditions of England or, for that matter, the traditions of Australia. He thought such academic traditions taught in developing countries, were helping to perpetuate colonialism.
In his courses on literature and creative writing at the University of Papua New Guinea, Ulli taught with great passion. And in turn, his students discovered their passion for experimenting with creative writing connected to their immediate world, and for reading the writings of authors from other developing countries and the black writings from the United States.
Two textbooks that stand out in my mind were the seminal African novel in English, Things Fall Apart by the Nigerian novelist Chunua Acebe, and Another Country by James Baldwin, the black writer from the United States. At the time, the latter novel was banned in Australia, I presume because of its explosive racial and sexual overtones.
With the exception of one student who became a writer, I and other students went on to pursue different career paths. Nevertheless, as students, under Ulli’s eager supervision, we wrote plays, poems and short stories.
And in these writings, some voiced their thoughts and experiences about their traditional cultures, others about politics, yet others about their anti-colonial feelings and race relationships. And we were all writing in English as a second language. Some students were more adventurous in the use of English while others were not so daring.
Most of the students’ plays, poems and short stories were published. Some writers were forceful and explosive in the style of their writing, while others were tame.
And with Ulli’s help also, the autobiography, Ten Thousand Years in a Lifetime by Albert Maori Kiki and the first novel in Papua New Guinea, The Crocodile by Vincent Eri, were produced.
My interest was in writing short stories. My most popular story, entitled Growing up in Mailu, appeared in different literary publications in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific and was for a time adapted for radio programs in Papua New Guinea.
Night Dreams of Passing Memories, by John Kadiba, July 2011, ISBN: 9781462849123, available from Amazon.com for $29.99 or contact the publishers on [email protected]