I’VE refrained from commenting on the demise of PNG Attitude and Pukpuk Publishing until now for two reasons: to come to terms with how my daily routine will change and to observe the responses from PNG Attitude readers, Papua New Guinean readers especially.
I’ve been getting my PNG Attitude fix straight after breakfast for so long now it has become embedded in my early morning routine.
It was nostalgia that drove my early engagement with Attitude (and I suspect was a key factor in Keith’s decision to establish it in the first place).
In its infancy, Attitude provided me and other expats who served in PNG with a vicarious reconnection with friends and former colleagues. It was a forum for shared experiences and reflections on what happened back then and what might have been.
It indulged the need for many of we B4s, teachers especially, to retain some kind of connection with PNG and to affirm (or otherwise) the value of our toil and time as colonial servants.
While elements of that nostalgia remain – witness Phil Fitzpatrick’s recent pieces and the Comments conversations about the libations of choice in the early ‘70s, Attitude is no longer a journal about expats, for expats and by expats.
Under Keith’s expert hands, and with the advent of the Crocodile Prize, Attitude has become, more or less, a journal for Papua New Guineans, about Papua New Guineans and, to an increasing extent, by Papua New Guineans.
I will miss my daily dose of Attitude and the delight in reading the tales and poems by the likes of Marlene, Michael, Busa, Francis, Raymond, Fidelis, Sil, Rashmii and so many others.
My greater concern, like everyone who has responded to Keith and Phil’s announcements, is for the future of what has become the second flowering of PNG literature under the banner of Attitude and Pukpuk Publishing and Keith and Phil’s leadership.
We all know what happened when Ulli Beier, who husbanded the first bloom of PNG literature, departed, and I fear that Keith and Phil’s ‘departure’ may leave a similar void.
And therein lies the opportunity, and the obligation, for Papua New Guineans to ensure that this does not happen.
Judging from the responses of Attitude’s Papua New Guineans readers and contributors, however, that prospect appears to be depressingly unlikely.
The majority of responses comprise an outpouring of well-deserved thanks to Keith and Phil, expressions of grief and heartbreak and questions about how the respondent is going to cope without Attitude and Pukpuk Publishing.
A few include a call to action. But none actually offer to lead any action to ensure that Papua New Guineans continue to have a space, in blog or electronic publishing form, in which their works can be published and promoted.
Collectively, the responses represent a cri de coeur and convey a sense of self-indulgent helplessness.
There are, on the other hand, some sparks of hope in the form of my apo, Baka Bina’s leadership of the Crocodile Prize committee.
But he, with his own significant professional and family obligations, cannot do it on his own.
I, for one, will continue to provide mentoring and editorial support where I can and am contemplating other ways that I can contribute to the sustenance of PNG literature – through an online mentoring forum, for example.
But I am loathe to make any further commitments unless more Papua New Guineans respond to Paul Oates’ call of ‘Husat inap a?’