A Bougainvillean song to the Papuan
01 May 2013
LEONARD FONG ROKA
IN A LECTURE HERE AT Divine Word University, we were talking about community development and people empowerment.
Then the discussion turned to the marginalisation of peoples.
I somehow thought of the marginalisation story in terms of the Papuan people who I see are becoming more and more powerless on their own land as Port Moresby expands and squatter settlements proliferate.
Sadly, my Papuan lecturer had to cut the session short because it was such an emotional experience to contemplate the fate of her own people.
Oh Papua land, I hate you
For fighting me o’er my land in Solomon
But safe, at least, now from reckless peoples like you
I laugh to see you being exploited and belittled in your own land.
Thousands flock from the hills, plains, marshes and the seas
Of strange places your lakatoi never reached
To roost and breed in Papua land
Oh Papua land, but you love so much
The skyscrapers and the song of the slums
That pushes you towards the brink day-by-day.
They are raping you,
Eda Ranu charges you for the tap water;
PNG Pawa signs you to easy pay;
Hospitals rob you; as does the slums that rob you of your land,
Yet you drink much coffee from the hills
And ignore the genocide upon your identity and pride
Your women sell their thighs
For all the jobs had gone before you knew it
Do they know that you are the father of the land?
Oh Papua land
You fear the slums and skyscrapers
And travel the world of reductionism
To eradicate your heritage of thousands of years
Of your Papua land existence.
Oh Papua land,
Who will sing Motu songs?
Who will dance Motu dances?
Who will pray the Koitabu prayers?
Who will build the lakatoi?
Who will mould the pottery of your legends?
Who will record the myths of your past?
Oh Papua land,
I am sad to watch your beauty
Great piece of poem!
It really expresses the current problem faced in our towns and cities.
Posted by: Joyce Bagi | 09 May 2013 at 02:46 PM
Ladies & Gents – I’d like to respond to your posts but I’m getting a bit tired here so please allow me to rest now.
Thank you for your thoughts.
Posted by: Marcus Mapen | 03 May 2013 at 03:00 PM
Marcus - Leonard could have easily attributed his song to the Butibams in Lae if he chose to.
They are also facing a similar problem there and I'm sure the Hageners too. Same with all original inhabitants of our other towns.
Respect, understanding and tolerance are key to writing our new book. Yumi ol kam man must respectim ol papa grauns of our urban centres and not run all over them.
The government must show strong leadership and deal properly with the LOs to alienate their land for use by others. And we must deal with the government to acquire those alienated land for our use. And not take on the LO ourselves and run roughshod over them.
The government must rise to the challenge and play a strong middle man role that it is there to play to encourage a harmonious and cohesive development and urbanisation of our country.
Posted by: David Kitchnoge | 03 May 2013 at 11:24 AM
Marcus, if you or someone else writes a similar book about the people of the Mt Hagen area, that are becoming landless due to urbanisation, then I will happily promote it.
I guess a lot of the people that migrate to Port Moresby and Lae are from the Highlands while the people who migrate to Mt Hagen probably don't include many Papuans or people from Morobe.
My family have been city dwellers for many generations; bootmakers, lithographers, marine engineers, skilled tradesmen. PNG needs people to work in the towns and cities and land has to be provided for their accommodation.
The farming lands surrounding the cities of the world get overtaken by the urbanisation. Governments need to work out ways to do this in a fair manner.
Posted by: Mrs Barbara Short | 03 May 2013 at 07:14 AM
My sister Barbara - I don't intend to be personal but would the book be same if the capital city of PNG was Mt Hagen (say)?
Posted by: Marcus Mapen | 02 May 2013 at 10:25 PM
My friend, the Rev Oala Baru Arua, has written a book all about it called "Whispers of the Voiceless - Forget Us Not!"
It looks at issues affecting Motu-Koitabu society. Let me know if you would like a copy.
Posted by: Mrs Barbara Short | 02 May 2013 at 09:40 PM
Bro David K – This is exactly what I was thinking with Bonney M’s “By the Rivers of Babylon” at the back of my head.
I think a lot of us need to take more 'World Human History' lessons (and lectures) and maybe even actually see the wider world.
That just might change our perspectives about our own country and maybe even save us from feeling sorry ourselves.
Posted by: Marcus Mapen | 02 May 2013 at 08:48 PM
This is true Rasta man. Unfortunately it is inevitable because of its capital city status. Also these are some of the prices that not only the Papuans but landowners of metropolitan Lae and Hagen have to pay in the name of modernisation. Pity isn't it?
Posted by: Francis Nii | 02 May 2013 at 03:01 PM
Sounds like a chapter straight out of the Old Testament book of Lamentations, only that it is sung by a third party.
PNGans are sure to write volumes of our books of Lamentations and our songs are sure to become louder and more frequent as the country moves ahead and tries to find its place in the modern world. It is inevitable.
The catch, though, is that we must have the courage to turn the page and write a new book rather than to get stuck behind familiar pages and die wondering.
Yupla yet klia long tokpisin.
Posted by: David Kitchnoge | 02 May 2013 at 12:30 PM
Listening to my lecturer (not the one in this piece) saying: 'PNG development trends as supported by every successive government is based in the urban areas and the rural areas are forgotten worlds.
The 2/3 of our population is there in the rural world and today we see them running into the urban world looking for the development the media so talks about.
What do you think this migration is creating to the other peoples that own the land where urbanization is gobbling up?'
Waigani has the answers!
Posted by: Leonard Roka | 02 May 2013 at 08:31 AM
Em tok tru ya! Real life situations that Papuans face today.
Posted by: Steve Gallagher | 02 May 2013 at 12:18 AM
Yep bro Leonard, I think that's a nice poem. The poem is trying to prevail a clear view towards our identity by making sure that what we do on our land will be the outcome for the future.
It is a must that we take good care for our land because, there is 75 percent of every Papua New Guinean stil depending on the land for survival.
As the saying goes - land is life! Therefore it is our responsibility to be cautious with our decisions when foreigners or investors coming and asking us to purchase our land without our consent or through cash payment of land.
Posted by: Kialo Kui | 01 May 2013 at 09:33 PM
True warrior-turned writer saying it like it is.
The content is matter of factly (any such word?) stated so emi orait for mature readers but young readers?
Posted by: Maureen Wari | 01 May 2013 at 08:46 PM