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Great Explorations No 98 - By reindeer across the Owen Stanleys

Coming soon: A book of stories from Enga Province


Ok Tedi Mining Ltd Book of the Year
Part of the Crocodile Prize Award

I am happy to announce that, very soon, a collection of short stories from Enga Province will be published.

The book is in production for release under the Pukpuk Publishing imprint, the publications arm of the Crocodile Prize Organisation.

The stories began to be written in the mid-1980s by Engans studying at the University of Papua New Guinea.

Some were published in the UPNG Enga Students Association Yearbook and the Arts and Culture section of Enga Nius, the provincial newspaper. Other in the collection have never been published.

I started the Enga Writers Association in 1987 and, under its banner, I tried to publish an anthology of all the short stories and poems written by Engans but never succeeded in finding a publisher who was interested.

Of course I understood it costs money to publish books and, due to the high illiteracy rate in Papua New Guinea, no publishing house saw any profit in spending time and money on a book of short stories from Enga.

When the last rejection letter came, I filed it away together with another manuscript based on my travels and issues that concern people in this country. These manuscripts have been collecting dust for more than two decades.

But now, thanks to Keith Jackson and Phil Fitzpatrick, the short story collection will soon be published in book form.

I just wish hope that it comes out before PNG’s 40th independence anniversary celebrations in September. I believe it will be a perfect independence gift for the people of Enga, PNG and the authors who wrote the short stories.

The book presents insights into the lives of Engan people. Some of the narratives are true life accounts of how people in Enga lived before and immediately after independence.

The authors write of education, missionaries, famine, suicide, tribal warfare and kiaps and express their feelings of sorrow, revenge, love and anger about the problems they faced.

All the authors are now senior citizens of this country. Some have passed on. They wrote their stories when they were young. The stories are based on situations experienced by the authors themselves.

In those days alcohol consumption by women in community clubs and village taverns was an issue in Enga. Today its mobile phones, marijuana, pornography, homebrew, corruption, mafia gangs, cults, sorcery and other issues that people have to deal with daily. Fertile ground, I suppose, for aspiring writers.

You will enjoy Robert Kia’s story, ‘The Ugly Truth’, in this new book. It is about a girl who broke through a window to go to a dance at the village night club, became pregnant and tried to commit suicide after she hears her father sobbing in his room.

Her mother was long dead and there was nobody she could seek for consolation. So she made up her mind to kill herself but something disturbed her.

Another interesting story, also by Robert Kia, is entitled ‘Nedipilya the Orphan’. Here’s an extract -

My sister didn’t even attempt to comfort me nor fight her husband. Instead she supported her partner to scold me more.

“You are just a good eater. You are eating too much in this house. You must work hard to earn your food. We just can’t keep on feeding you.”

This was the final straw. How can one not cry when your own blood speaks to you like that? The bitter tears never ran dry that night.

After all these years, it will be great news for Robert Kia, Thomas Neah, Steven Thomas, Nancy Ambis Waim, Silas Mutarane, Br Joe Make and Thomas Pupun who wrote these stories.

I would like readers to contact me on my email address [email protected] or text me on 71105400. Unfortunately, Susan Balen passed on but I would like her two children to contact me and I encourage them to write like their late mother did.

I request my friends and other people to also start writing more stories and poems, starting now. English teachers in our high schools should also get their students to write. The number one priority of our Governor, Peter Ipatas, is education and we, as writers and teachers, can encourage quality education through writing.

When we launch our new book I hope we will re-establish the Enga Writers Association and encourage our people - especially our young generation - to express themselves through writing.

Michael Dom is a young man from Simbu Province. He is a member of the Simbu Writers Association and currently studying in Australia. Michael is a world class poet and has published several books.

He has written: “Literature is all about quality in thought and expression – exposing creativity in the use of language, and in writing which reflects and reveals the human experience. Supporting this literature cause, to me, is about meeting quality people.”

Michael is petitioning the government to buy PNG-authored books to be made available to 4,000 PNG schools throughout the country. We believe our students will relate much better to books by Papua New Guinean writers and understand the contents thoroughly.

So, my friends, Robert, Thomas, Steve, Ambis, Silas, Pupun and Br Joe, things are looking bright. Let’s take up those pens and start writing again.

We cannot hope to write like Joanne Kathleen Rowling and make millions of kina like her creation of Harry Potter. Let’s not have such thoughts in our mind. Nobody in PNG has made heaps through writing.

Let’s just continue to write and show the way forward for our young generation. They have the potential but need exposure and encouragement. Somebody like JK Rowling might stand out one day, who knows?

There is now hope we will get some of our writing published through the annual literary competition, The Crocodile Prize, with support and encouragement from people like Keith Jackson and Phil Fitzpatrick and the PNG Attitude blog.


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Porap Gai

Ambrep onge Mr Kumbon, thank you very much for putting Enga on the web page.

As an Engan student, I have had the privilege to read more stories from Enga. Some of those stories and legends of Enga died out with our ancestors.

However, it is amazing to hear from you. You have recorded many stories and even heard from your parents.

I have posted a few poems on PNG Attitude and Keith Jackson and Phil Fitzpatrick had helped me much in publishing.

I have a lot of stories and need to get them published, so please Daniel Kumbon let us put our forgotten people, culture, religions and places on the worldwide web.

I would like to see that a book will be published. We want more from Daniel Kumbon, thank you wantok.

Daniel Ipan Kumbon

Michael, Thomas A Edison, whose electric light we are using right now, kept on trying and trying until he perfected his inventions.

People do not realize what they are capable of. They only have to try and keep at it.

Our youths must be encouraged. We must not allow our youths to think that chewing betel nut,drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes in the one mouth is life.

No, life has to be something else. Yes, it is possible the Crocodile Prize can be organized in Enga or anywhere else in PNG.

Michael Dom

What a story of perseverance you are, Daniel.

I think I can see the Crocodile Prize hosted by Enga very soon, ah?

Aslan's country is 'higher up and farther in'.

Today I was enjoying poetry by Naomi Shihab Nye.

The poem Famous is I think what you are doing, but it is not about the kind of famous that most people think of, it starts like this, "The river is famous to the fish"

And ends,

"I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do."

Daniel Ipan Kumbon

Yes Ron, we hope to publish only Abby's poem for it sums up everything we've published so nicely.

And thanks Michael for your gesture.

Ron Kone

Wanbel Daniel. Is Abby's poem in the Enga anthology too?

Michael Mangal

Good news for Enga in particular. I am a strong follower of Daniel Kumbon and his articles and look forward to support him in any ways possible. [email protected]

Daniel Ipan Kumbon

Don't give up Ron, a man lives only once. And stand up for what you think is right.

Ron Kone

Thanks Daniel. You've shown a character of persistence. I couldn't wait to read the anthology.

Daniel Ipan Kumbon

Yes Corney, it will definitely find its way to the bookshelf of the Enga Taek Anda.

I launched my small Supplementary Reader for Grade 6-8 students, 'Climbing Mountains', with a major work by Polly Wiessner and Akii Tumu, 'Historical Vines', on the Enga Networks of Exchange, Ritual and Warfare in PNG a couple of years ago at the Highlands Lutheran International School.

Hon Muki Taranupi, the National Education Minister at the time, was the guest of honour.

Corney Korokan Alone

Thank you Daniel for this encouragement.

You have been a very good contributing member of this blog since you landed here. We value your contributions.

This book will no doubt establish you as one of the veterans of PNG Attitude and Crocodile Prize.Great work.

Looking forward to reading your anthology.

It will also be a handy addition to the book-self at the Enga Taek Anda (Culture Center) in Wabag.

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