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Crocodile Prize 2015: A wondrous journey of discovery

_Crocodile Prize 2015PHIL FITZPATRICK

Foreword to the Crocodile Prize Anthology 2015

THIS is the fifth year that the Crocodile Prize Anthology has been published. It is also something of a milestone because literary endeavours in Papua New Guinea are not renowned for their longevity.

It is also worth noting that there has been no waning in the quantity or the quality of the entries or in the number of new writers entering the competition. The judges continue to be amazed at this impressive output.

As the competition rolls on it has not been a matter of encouraging this creativity but rather simply identifying it. My impression is that there is a whole lot more out there yet to be discovered.

At the 2014 awards I mentioned my enjoyment and honour at being part of the whole endeavour. I particularly made the point that it had been a wondrous journey of discovery and that I felt privileged to have been involved. I’m sure Keith Jackson shares this view.

I have also come to the realisation that Papua New Guinea, a country of just over 7 million people, is punching above its weight in terms of literary output, even with the constraints it suffers. Why this is so I’m not sure.

One of the highlights of 2014-15 has been the number of books published. One or two of them will eventually take their place in the Papua New Guinean literary canon. I have had a hand in some of them through Pukpuk Publications but books have been published elsewhere too.

The advent of print-on-demand services and low cost self-publishing options have contributed greatly to this pleasing trend.

All of this bodes well for the future but there have been a few disappointments too. While we’ve had support from a number of individual politicians like Gary Juffa, Sam Abel and the governor of Simbu Province, Noah Kool, those arms of government, such as the Education Department, which should be eager to support PNG’s writers, still appear to be largely indifferent.

Over the same period we also saw the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby withdraw its support for the Crocodile Prize. It comes at a time when the Australian government seems intent upon demonstrating a meanness of spirit in its attitude to foreign affairs in general.

This unfortunate development should not be construed to reflect upon the sterling support provided by the commission and its staff in the past, most especially during Ian Kemish’s tenure as High Commissioner. It is also worth noting that the Kemish family continues to support the competition in a private capacity.

In some ways the Commission’s withdrawal may not be a bad thing because it has separated the Prize from what some saw as an unfortunate connection to a bygone colonial era. That the void created by the commission has been enthusiastically embraced by our burgeoning band of Simbu writers this year is possibly an indication of where the competition will be headed in future years.

It has been another intriguing year in Papua New Guinean politics and this has provided much grist for our writers. Along with the usual staple of corruption and mismanagement, the betel nut ban in Port Moresby and the dodgy deal with Australia over asylum seekers have been particularly noteworthy. As I write there is a barney going on between Papua New Guinea and Australia over a consulate in Bougainville.

Papua New Guinea, like many countries in the region, big and small, is facing difficult fiscal times ahead. That said, it appears to be in a relatively good position to weather the storm. Things appear to have stabilised politically and some real socio-economic progress seems to be on the way. The future looks rosy in a way that it hasn’t for a very long time.

There is still much to debate however and its writers are not going to run out of material anytime soon. It is almost impossible for writers in a developing country not to be political and Papua New Guinea is no exception. Politics and writing in Papua New Guinea are inextricably entwined. There is much more to be written and the old crocodile is ready.

The Crocodile Prize Anthology 2015 edited by Philip Fitzpatrick and Keith Jackson will be available for purchase from Amazon in early September. The Crocodile Prize Anthology 2015. ISBN: 978-1515182634, 388 pages. Paperback $9.17


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Joycelin Leahy


Mathias Kin

Great stuff Phil.

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