An entry in the Crocodile Prize
PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum
Award for Essays & Journalism
I never dreamed of the existence of a place that promotes Papua New Guinea literature with an objective of breaching the so-called ‘culture of silence’; a place encouraging freedom of expression particularly for PNG writers.
I spend time in the digital continent. I research or simply connect with netizens in virtual space through various social networks and websites.
But it just happened that one click on my mouse led me to a wonderful place that bears the name of my country and its way of life, PNG Attitude, with the intention of making friendships and building relationships through literature at national and international level.
PNG Attitude is also a host link for Bougainville 24, a resourceful site for my autonomous province of Bougainville, a site I also did not know.
My experience previously was one of self-alienation, because the more I tried to get to know my world the more I seemed to alienate myself from it.
In mid 2014 I received an email from Fr Giorgio Licini, the former secretary to the Catholic Commission for Social Communications in the Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.
It informed me of a basic media course to be held at Divine Word University for 12 days in November.
I immediately replied confirming I would like to fly from Bougainville for the course. “What an offer and great opportunity,” I told myself as I clicked the send button.
Fr Giorgio and I exchanged a few more emails and, given my interest in news writing, I was offered an attachment two weeks prior to the course to do some writing and to help out in the preparation of Catholic Reporter PNG.
I was joyful about the prospect of working alongside a newspaper editor. For someone who struggles to write, such an offer was a golden opportunity and not to lose.
7 November 2014 has arrived and I am peeping through a plane window admiring the beauty of Bougainville and its outlying islands below as the Fokker dashes into the air and through the clouds to catch the heights.
I gently put my left arm on the armrest and positioned myself for a comfortable sleep.
The landing announcement from the captain forces me out of my dream world. I look through the window to see the nation’s capital beaming a welcome smile decorated by so many thousand buildings not like the handful on Buka.
I disembark and head straight for a lounge to wait for the late afternoon Madang flight.
Fr Giorgio is there for my arrival at Madang airport and we head to Divine Word University where I am to write and edit articles for two weeks as part of my training.
The two of us meet regularly to discuss stories and chat when, at the end of the first week, an important conversation breaks out.
“Do you know Leonard Fong Roka?” asks Fr Giorgio in his Italian accent.
“Yes, of course I know Leonard. He was my senior at Hutjena Secondary School in 2002,” I answer in my Buka accent.
“And do you know Bomai Witne?” he continued while we had tea. “Is he a priest?” I asked.
“Not a priest but he a lecturer and writer. He has just written an article about your Bougainville bishop’s homily. He is also coming to the media workshop,” he continued.
“Well this is good news,” I told myself.
“These guys are very good writers and you should take some time to read and learn from their writings,” said Fr Giorgio.
“If you have time, log in to PNG Attitude to have a look at how the articles are professionally edited. There you will also find many useful resources you may want to use in the future as references.
“Who knows, one day you might find some of your articles getting published too.”
“Sure I will when I have the chance,” I replied.
The next couple of days saw me surf through PNG Attitude. I found the names of people like Keith Jackson, Phil Fitzpatrick, Michael Dom, Bomai Witne, Leonard Fong Roka, Francis Nii, Garry Juffa, Fidelis Sukina and Marlene Potoura just to name a few of all the writers, the so-called architects of PNG Attitude.
I was moved when I read through the articles and poems of different writers and authors. The diverse styles of writings captured my attention and the power of motivation steered my mind to what I might do.
The November issue of Catholic Reporter out of the way, I tackled my first assignment for PNG Attitude. Entries closed in the Val Rivers Prize for Peace & Harmony Writing in just four days and I wanted to be there.
So I wrote my first article ‘Tsuhana of Hope: the continuing relevance of traditional values’ and get in touch with Keith Jackson who published it in PNG Attitude.
I am also surprised and pleased to see one of my articles for Catholic Reporter, ‘Crying for Goilala’, republished a few days later.
During the communications course I met Bomai Witne who encouraged me to write and who shared his positive experiences of PNG Attitude.
I wish to tell the writers and authors of PNG Attitude that I have learned and grasped a lot from their wisdom, knowledge and creativity. I hope that one day I will meet them face to face.
My journey to PNG Attitude is one I will always remember because it took me four flights and two weeks of writing and an amazing mouse click.