The sixth year of Papua New Guinea’s national literary competition, the Crocodile Prize, was launched on Wednesday at the National Library in Port Moresby in front of a small crowd. Organising committee chairman Baka Bina said Papua New Guinea needs its own voice and the Crocodile Prize is fast becoming the right place to develop this voice - Joycelin Leahy
PAPUA New Guinea is a land of many tribes and many stories. Culturally, we are storytellers and our heritage has been handed down through oral history.
Our ancestors sat by the fire and told stories and pointed to landmarks that had meaning and significance to our people and our land. Papua New Guineans are born storytellers.
Writing critical essays and challenging the way we lead and live is also healthy for any nation. Each country and culture have their own voice and own way of story-telling. You see, only Papua New Guineans can tell our stories in the way that makes sense.
In the early 1980s our own PNG writers and storytellers such as the late Sir Vincent Eri, Nora Vagi Brash, Russell Soaba and many others wrote books, stories, poetry, plays, songs and dances. They created a unique voice for PNG.
Their passion and involvement in the contemporary literature created a buzzing atmosphere which attracted many new writers to the scene and readers to enjoy these stories. Many PNG books such as The Melanesian Way by Sir Bernard Narokobi and The Crocodile by Sir Vincent Eri were published.
Throughout the country writers were published through the Office of Information and other supporting government bodies including the Education Department.
Sadly, and somehow, this government has neglected literature and an important foundation of nation-building has become less important.
Literature is an important foundation that should began in our tok ples skuls and encouraged in universities. Not only does reading and writing develop young minds, at an early age they establish learning that is based on PNG culture.
Literature is also a way of recording our history and sharing knowledge. Our own ignorance and neglect has seen a waning interest in PNG literature over the past two decades.
Five years ago, journalist Keith Jackson and ex-kiap and author Phil Fitzpatrick launched the Crocodile Prize national literary contest (named in memory of Sir Vincent Eri’s book, which was PNG’s first published novel). They had the hope of re-building a PNG literary community.
What started off in PNG Attitude as regular contributions from a small number of PNG writers grew into a community of short story writers, poets, illustrators, essayists and authors.
Last year, the Crocodile Prize attracted more than 800 entries, 166 of which were published in the annual Crocodile Prize Anthology. The anthology is distributed each year – free to schools and libraries across Papua New Guinea.
With your support, we hope that this year, the number of submissions will increase. Indeed, we are projecting that will be a surge in contributors. We already have a list of over 100 writers and most will submit an average of three entries each in the various categories.
I would like to urge individuals, private companies as well as the government to support the Crocodile Prize in 2016.
We have secured three sponsors and need more. In return, we will promote you and your organisation. I would like to sincerely thank the PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum, the Cleland Family and Paga Hill Development Company. We are very grateful for your continuing support.
There have been some volunteers who have been working tirelessly to get us to this launch. Our small team, who are all PNG writers, consists of Baka Bina, Joycelin Leahy, Rashmii Bell, Emmanuel Peni, Ruth Moiam and Martyn Namarong. Joycelin and Rashmii operate out of Brisbane.
Please, join US and create a voice for Papua New Guineans in writing. If anyone or any organisation would like to sponsor one or more of the Crocodile Award events, you can email us on firstname.lastname@example.org
The Crocodile Prize 2016 will close on 30 July 30 and winners will be announced in November before the anthology is published. Please send your entries to email@example.com.
You can find the entry details on our website here. Share with your friends on social media and contact us if you have any questions.