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The Crocodile Prize – is this the end of five wonderful years?


WE have experienced the good fortune of seeing the Simbu Writers Association step up to organise what will be a very fine Crocodile Prize awards event in Kundiawa next month.

I trust that some of our readers will be able to make it to the Simbu for the weekend of 18-20 September to participate in what will be a joyful and important occasion.

For some years now, it has been the desire of Phil Fitzpatrick and I to see the Crocodile Prize Organisation, COG, which administers the awards, transfer its activities to PNG.

We tried to do this in 2012, but failed. And, when Phil and I rescued the project late that year, I foreshadowed that 2015 would probably see me out.

Since then Phil has also indicated that this year brings down the curtain on the enormous amount of time he is devoting to Prize activities, although he has said he will continue to assist Papua New Guinean writers publish the increasing number of books emerging from Melanesia.

While the Prize itself has been a huge success for most of its five years, the real challenge always lay in whether it would build enough momentum and expertise to become sustainable as a PNG-run enterprise.

Unfortunately, Phil and I have been unsuccessful in transferring enough of the work to PNG to ease the burden on ourselves. Apart from the success story of SWA, there has been no effort made elsewhere in PNG to demonstrate the will and ability that would maintain the Prize.

In short, outside Simbu, there has been no Papua New Guinean take-up of project management. So it seems that, at present, the Prize is unsustainable within PNG and, from our point of view, it is not realistic for its organisation to continue to be driven from Australia.

I was seeking three indicators that might keep me engaged for one more year. I had expected that writers’ groups would be established in 3-5 other cities or provinces (there were promises of this, each unrequited).

I was hoping to see energetic signs of productive engagement by more COG members with PNG media, companies and politicians to generate broader support for the Prize.

And I believed the annual awards event should be a PNG affair.

Thanks to SWA, number three got up - but not the others.

For much of this year, I have pursued alternative management and financing arrangements, including an approach at a high level of PNG’s political firmament which, despite positive early indications, saw no traction.

And I will forego further mention of the surly silence of the Australian High Commission under its most recent prematurely-departed leader or the going to ground of the well-endowed Buk bilong Pikinini which showed such enthusiasm a year ago and which has subsequently tracked the High Commission into obscurity.

It isn't finance that's the main problem - we have terrific sponsors and K120,000 is budget enough - it's commitment.

Phil and I hope the Prize will be an offer next year, and that PNG COG members and other supporters will find a way to maintain it - to find the time - as a going national concern.

How to achieve this should be a major topic for discussion next month in Kundiawa.

But, for me, I know that, after five years, I need to take a big step away. My commitment to Papua New Guinea is great, but not inexhaustible. And there are other matters in my life I must attend to.

It will be a great shame if this resurgence of creative writing in Papua New Guinea fades away as did the first flowering in the late 1970s.

It's up to Papua New Guineans to show they value their own literature and are willing to struggle hard to promote it.

I’ve enjoyed most of the last five years and have been thrilled by the successful participation in the Prize of so many writers and supporters of PNG literature.

But I think the time has come to say ‘it’s your turn’.


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Jimmy Awagl

Like minded people with hearts to literature will commit time for volunteerism to keep the PNG literature alive otherwise lack of commitment will kill the objective.

Michael Dom

Good effort John Kamasua.

Port Moresby based writers - Oi! Put your hands where we can see them!

Michael Dom

Kuriya - there's an old adage that when you need a job done, then give it to someone who's busy.

Writers and Poets - please keep your eyes on the objectives which are larger than ourselves.


Freedom from fear is the freedom
I claim for you my motherland!
Freedom from the burden of the ages, bending your head,
breaking your back, blinding your eyes to the beckoning
call of the future;
Freedom from the shackles of slumber wherewith
you fasten yourself in night's stillness,
mistrusting the star that speaks of truth's adventurous paths;
freedom from the anarchy of destiny
whole sails are weakly yielded to the blind uncertain winds,
and the helm to a hand ever rigid and cold as death.
Freedom from the insult of dwelling in a puppet's world,
where movements are started through brainless wires,
repeated through mindless habits,
where figures wait with patience and obedience for the
master of show,
to be stirred into a mimicry of life.

-- Rabindranath Tagore

John Kaupa Kamasua

People - Keith and Phil have shown the way... Many of you are in the provinces. Even if you you cannot all form formal associations, why don't you try and create a core of one or two interested and committed people.

Then spread the word.

What we really need to happen is for more people to be writing, getting support for what they are writing one and then point them to wise men of the trade like Phil and Keith (for mentoring, editing and publishing).

We are merely touching the iceberg. There are hurdles to overcome.

We need to get people to see that their work can be read, and published, enter competitions like the PNG Croc Prize can sell their work.

I think there is a lot of very careful work to be done with key stakeholders in the country.

I am leading the torch again for Port Moresby writers, and am creating the interest among the student population here to take it to the provinces. You should see details on that in a separate article I am writing for PNG Attitude.

The success of the SWA is because there is a committed and passionate people behind it. That is their secret. And then of course they have some naturally talented writers. (Just like many places in the country.)

Then eventually but very carefully we need to consolidate all the effort for a national presence for writers.

For those writers in Port Moresby, I am appealing and imploring you to get on board and get involved with the Port Moresby Writers.

I will also be posting something on that very soon on PNG Attitude.

Please get in touch with me on [email protected] and [email protected].

Ed Brumby

You and Phil are already well inked into the annals of Papua New Guinean literature, more than worthy successors to the likes of Ulli Beier and Elton Brash et al.

Current generations of Papua New Guineans have, and future generations will have cause to be grateful to you both for your selfless endeavours and the legacy that you have created.

We can but hope that others will follow the lead of the SWA and ensure that the Crocodile Prize lives on.

Unlike Marlene, I am sure that there are many PNGeans who are quite capable of taking on the task. Some have already put up their hands. Others, including all Crocodile Prize winners should join them.

Kuriya Nilki Kiap

Simbu writers had come a long way to establish the SWA. Given the opportunity and the willpower to drive the engine of writers of this nation they will definitely perform.

I have a lot confidence in the SWA. We should not strive to give it to organisations that already have a lot on their plates.

Finally, my congratulations Keith, Phil and team for an amazing journey!

Michael Dom

True thanks, congratulations and well done is to get our heads out of the proverbial and put real effort into carrying on the Crocodile Prize.

Commitment is the first of many C words we need to use. Like communicate: cooperate: collaborate.

Are we only thinkers and writers or are we doers also?

Maybe we have too many lip servants or query board gurus and not enough foot soldiers.

The Crocodile Prize is a tough task. But it is clearly not impossible.

The first step is for us to quit thinking that it is too difficult to do.

Marlene Dee Potoura

There is none capable in PNG. Face facts, we aren't capable.

Keith and Phil have been the Captain and first mate, and ya both recommend people in PNG, please.

Oh no, I still need you two, I know I sound selfish, but hey you leave, this ship sinks and we all go down.

No need to rave on and waste words that we can do it without you two. This is really distressing news for me.

Barbara Short

For one moment there I thought the PNGAA were going to offer to take over the running of the Crocodile Prize!

Andrea Williams

The annual Croc Prize Anthology has been an inspiration to read and a generous gift to PNG writers and educators.

To have built the interest, the momentum and the financial support of sponsors has been extraordinary.

Best wishes to the Simbu Writers Association for their initiative and let's hope more PNGns take up this worthwhile challenge!

Congratulations to Keith and Phil for thieir many and enormous achievements, and thank you.

Mathias Kin

Keith and Phil, like the others here, I am lost for words. Thank you tupla wantok for bringing me out of "my village" and back into writing again.

I was hoping one of the universities would take up the reins from here when Keith and Phil leave off. As a learning institution, a university, we would expect these institutions to show some commitment, some grit.

As a way forward, can SWA fill that void? SWA can go some way, can do some things in its capacity, but wouldn't it be expecting too much especially compared to the mammoth amount of quality work these two gentlemen put into the PNG Attitude and the Crocodile Prize on a daily basis?

In Kundiawa on 19 September before the evening event, we are planning a series of indoor sessions, similar to the one we had in Moresby in 2014.

One of these sessions will especially be targeted at the survival of Crocodile Prize and PNG Attitude after Phil and Keith. This issue had been on our mind for a while and we have had discussions at our meetings.

We hope that this very crucial meeting in Kundiawa will be attended by many in the know (politicians, writers, academics etc) and we hope we can arrive at something tangible as a way forward beyond 2015.

Martin Hadlow

Well done, Keith and Phil.

A meaningful and valiant effort.

After five years, it's definitely time for PNG authors to fully embrace the concept and carry it onwards to greater heights.

Thank you for your commitment.

Fidelis Sukina

Keith and Phil have done a great job to take the Crocodile Prize to this standard. It's something big.

I learned post-colonial literature and it was an eye opener for me at university. It made me take pride in my country.

But, like post-colonial literature, we must take the course of our own writings. Keith and Phil have done the hard work of bringing the Prize to where it is.

I think it's time for us to bring it beyond the horizon. If there is any committee which I can be a part of I will be glad to help in the organisation of the prize in the future.

Lapieh Landu

It brings me much despair on hearing this. The Croc Awards kept me empowered and motivated as a writer knowing that there was an avenue and a place where I was able to share my thoughts and emotions and work with others of the same interest.

It feels like waging war and a platoon at the verge of giving up. No one fierce enough to take us forward. In the likeness of Daniel, I too feel powerless with trivial management experience not worthy of such a important and integral cause. If only. If only.

We cannot say we do not have the capacity, people thought we couldn't be Independent, we did. People thought we couldn't pull of the Pacific Games, we did. Now - the Croc, I say we can!

We just need to collaborate our great and creative minds together and find a way through! And no Keith - it's not the end.

Busa Jeremiah Wenogo

Keith, your contribution (alongside Phil) to writing in PNG is something that will linger in our memories for as long as we write. If it weren't for the time and commitment from your busy schedule that you and Phil spared to administering the PNG Attitude blog and the Crocodile Prize, we would not have come this far. You have started a journey that I am sure the rest of us will have to continue on for the same of writing in PNG.

Busa Jeremiah Wenogo

Keith, your contribution (alongside Phil) to writing in PNG is something that will linger in our memories for as long as we write. If it weren't for the time and commitment from your busy schedule that you and Phil spared to administering PNG Attitude Blog and Crocodile Prize, we would not have come this far. You have started a journey that I am sure the rest of us will have to continue on for the same of writing in PNG.

Joycelin Leahy

Congratulations Keith, Phil and team for an amazing journey! You have made us dream again for literature in PNG. I am happy to help Jimmy and SWA at any capacity I can as a writer and supporter of COG.

Barbara Short

Sori tu mas. It was great while it lasted!
But I guess PNG is just not ready for it yet, except in Simbu, God bless them.
The Social Media Facebook blogs seem to be surviving but there is nothing like the Crocodile Prize to spur on the young creative writers.
What about the universities?
Joseph Sukwianomb is trying to organise a Waigaini Seminar.
What about Divine Word?
What about the newspapers? Could the Post Courier run it?
Surely we can't just let this crocodile become extinct!

Daniel Ipan Kumbon

I am powerless. It's heart wrenching to even comment. Except to say that I have hope in SWA. Keep that 'glow' illuminating.

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