We are worth a lot. Do not sell ourselves cheaply
A thought at this time

Another stunning PNG writer hits the ground running


Sibona by Emmanuel Peni, Pukpuk Publications, 2015, 230 pages, ISBN: 978-1517450908, available from Amazon, paperback US$6.17 ( ̴ K17.20) plus postage or Kindle eBook US$1

MANUSCRIPTS are arriving at Pukpuk Publications with increasing regularity, usually about one every two weeks.

As they are received they get placed in a queue with a promise of later assessment and possible selection for publication somewhere down the track.

As I’ve written before, some of the material submitted is of poor quality; some of it is good but requires extensive editing and some involves subject matter that doesn’t fit into the Pukpuk Publications genre field.

This latter group mostly consists of religious or political diatribes or quasi-scientific stuff that I would be crazy to publish.

With the volume of material arriving, laborious editing is a task I’m less inclined to undertake.  It’s time authors seeking publication abandoned the expectation that someone will fix their work for them.

But very occasionally a manuscript arrives that strikes a chord, even on a first cursory scan. One of these lobbed into my inbox a few weeks ago. It’s a novel, Sibona, by a writer with whom I was unfamiliar.

Sibona came from Emmanuel Peni by way of Daniel Doyle, a regular reader and occasional commentator on PNG Attitude.

When I eventually got round to looking at the manuscript, something struck a chord. Here was a well-written novel, of good length, and on a subject that really needs to be explored and exposed.

The original working title of Sibona was Yu Ting Yu Man Ah! The phrase translates from Tok Pisin to ‘you think you are a man heh!’. 

It was a title meant to bring out the stigma, discrimination and prejudice against women and girls in Papua New Guinea and, especially, the destructive internal self-hate, self-discrimination and lateral-horizontal violence among women themselves. 

However, as the story progressed the title changed to The Other Family. This occurred as the characterisations evolved within an increasingly intricate and complex narrative involving expectations, obligations and relationships.

It then became obvious that the wider, non-biological family, with whom the characters slowly developed more lasting and meaningful relationships, was paramount.

When the story ended it was also obvious that it was really about one person - Sibona. The word sibona in the coastal Motu culture has contextual meanings - ‘by herself, by oneself, alone, she is the one’.

All these meanings gelled seamlessly into a story about the courage and resilience of one individual against many obstacles, including some that were inhumane.

Sibona portrays the best and the worst of contemporary Papua New Guinean culture, where violence in all its forms has been normalised.

Prejudice, stigma and discrimination - together with violence and issues of gender and sexuality, relationships, communication of expectations and obligations, conflicting religious and cultural practices and their interpretations - have made the lives of modern urban Papua New Guineans very capricious.

That said, this is not a dark or depressive story.  It is sad and occasionally shocking but it is often hilarious. And that, I think, is the best way to deal with such subject matter.

I believe it is a novel that would sit very well in both a high school and university English literature course – it is ripe for analysis.

Emmanuel PeniThe author, Emmanuel (Manu) Peni, 43, was born in Bogia, Madang, the eighth in a family of 10.  He is a single parent with a son named Tumunjuwang.

Emmanuel has a bachelor’s degree in applied science but works in organisational development, mostly in the not-for-profit sector.

He’s the co-owner and co-director of a PNG micro finance company, People Centered OD Consultancies. Emmanuel has written several unpublished short stories but this is his first book.

As a bonus the novel comes with a cover featuring an original 2007 acrylic on canvas painting by Gary Juffa, Governor of Oro Province.  The painting is tailor-made for the novel and creates a beautiful introduction to the wondrous words inside. 


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Kelly Kuloi

Congratz Emmanuel!

Lesley Bola

A very creative and brilliant young Papua New Guinean with his first ever published book. An overall eloquent description of a normal lifestyle in communities knitting in values, culture, politics, economics, religion, spiritual, health, gender, identity, crime, chaos, HIV & AIDS, sports, hobbies, social network and the list goes on and on.

Sibona took me to a range of emotional roller coaster such as excitement, anger, ecstatic, beaten, grieved, hopeless, alarmed, chaotic, fuming, troubled, sparking, empty, thoughtful, thrilled, zippy, etc etc.

Two simple learnings I gained from Sibona are empowering those who lack basic awareness, knowledge, skills and experience in a basic, fun and adaptable way.

Next being humble and willing to learn from anyone you come across in life. Sibona will invite you to her own real world. Highly recommended to educational institutions, libraries and any individuals.

Congratulations Emmanuel Peni!

Baka Bina

We in Papua New Guinea can get the conversation going. Whilst we wait for a webpage to be developed, you can assist by getting on the email list that is being developed for by the Crocodile Prize Organizing Group 2016.

The email address is [email protected] which I am using to discuss COG 2016
Join up and we can discuss all these issues and see if we can do something about it.

Francis Nii

Congratulations Emmanuel. Well done!

Emmanuel Peni

I have volunteered to help with an email to Baka Bina and Philip Fitzpatrick. How can we organise while being scattered throughout the country?

Phil Fitzpatrick

I've been dropping hints along those lines for a while now Jimmy.

I can't see why the SWA can't become a publisher using Createspace. You've got the writers and capable editors, all you need is a BSP Visa debit card.

I make absolutely no profit at all, in fact I subsidise PNG authors, but SWA could charge a fee and run a publishing company at a small profit.

You could train up your own editors too. Those kids out at the orphanage would probably be in on it.

Jimmy Awagl

Congrats Emmanuel!

Can someone help to edit and publish more books of PNG authors queue up with Pukpuk Publishing to generate interest and eagerness of PNGeans to continue to write since publication is the climax of participation of the art work of writing contribution towards PNG Attitude and Crocodile Prize.
Phil is the only one editing and publishing PNG author's manuscript in which it creates delay and progress of PNG Literature. Every one wants to be an author only if some additional volunteer can do as Phil did than PNG would bloom with authors otherwise it would be a fake tale of promoting literature in PNG without publication.
Could someone standup to help publish PNG books?

Daniel Ipan Kumbon

Sounds good Ed. It seems, only the UPNG Bookshop is dealing with PNGean authored books. Can somebody order these books and sell them in PNG please.

I had to order Brokenville, Resonance of my Thoughts, Inspector Metau and the Ku High School anthology the hard way through Phil Fitzpatrick in Australia.

The books were then shipped to me from America and I had to go to Port Moresby to pick them up to avoid theft in the postal system.

PNG writers ought to read each others works and support each other. I hope to get a copy soon when I make a new order of my own collection of stories from Enga, Remember Me.

Circuitous as it is, the Amazon route is the most efficient and economical way of getting PNG-authored books to PNG at present. The PNG postal system's ability to thieve books and impose punitive import duties is another matter - KJ

Ed Brumby

Having just read the first chapter, I endorse your assessment 100%, Phil: can't wait to read the whole book.

It's a shame that there aren't more folks like you, dedicated to helping PNG authors publish their works. And more people willing to mentor and edit the writing of said authors. It can, at times, be a laborious and frustrating task, of course. But the outcomes and side benefits of forging new friendships and acquiring new insights into contemporary PNG society are more than well worth the effort, as you know.

Could the partnership with the Brissie Writers Festival yield access to more volunteer editors, perhaps? Or the Australian Society of Editors??

Bessielah David

I read the first chapter and it blew me away. As promised, I see it to be a great read. So much reality splayed across the pages, I can feel the emotions. Intriguing!

Bessielah David

I just read the first chapter and it blew me away.

Amazon enables potential purchasers to read selections from its books on sale. You can see extracts from Sibona here - KJ

Bessielah David

Wow! This is great news! Looking forward to get a copy for myself.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)