Transform your mindset in order to bring change: Juffa
Peter Kinjap – freelance newsman with a cultural mission

The emergence of the Simbu Writers Association

SWA is born - 6 May 2014Author FRANCIS NII has prepared a wonderful presentation for his participation in the Brisbane Writers Festival. The slide show tells how, in Simbu Province, a group of writers began to build a prototype of the administrative infrastructure that would be required for the development of a national literature in Papua New Guinea.

The following transcript, taken from Francis’s Powerpoint presentation, provides a good summary of the sophisticated approach the group took to creating a model for the establishment of a regional literary presence in Simbu and beyond. You can download the full Powerpoint presentation here

CONTEXT

In search of literary excellence in our highlands province of Simbu….

....we had an idea & were prepared to work hard and without compensation to realise it….

....we wanted to encourage the present generation to write and be published….

.....and we wanted to assist the next generation to excel in literature through reading, writing and   speaking English.

Autographing a bookBACKGROUND

The Crocodile Prize national literary awards were established in PNG in 2011 and have been held each year since.

This was the first significant effort to revive a PNG literature which had collapsed after independence in 1975.

The Prize has spun off an extensive publishing program and a nascent network of writers’ associations.

It has never received significant government or aid donor support.

It is a wonderful joint achievement of PNG and Australia.

Books are given to studentsIMPLEMENTATION

The pioneering Simbu Writers Association is born at Mt Wilhelm Tourist Hotel, Kundiawa - 6 May 2014.

We began to visit schools, talking to students and teachers about the Crocodile Prize literary contest.

We presented the Simbu for Literary Excellence concept to head teachers and principals to get their support.

We gave books written by Simbu authors to schools to show our people that we can write & publish books.

We travelled to remote areas of the province to bring the message of literature to schools and to the people.

We covered lots of ground and talk to many hundreds of people.

Hold upSchools don’t have the money to bulk buy books so I hand out copies of my novel. Sometimes a principal will even ask me to autograph it.

Once, disgruntled youths held us up thinking we were the Governor & local politicians. We gave them a book to let us pass.

Sometimes the roads were so bad we couldn’t get through (but that doesn’t happen often, we’re very determined).

PNG’s former Attorney General, Hon Kerenga Kua MP, launched the pioneering Ku High School Anthology of students’ writing in late 2014.

He also gave K20,000 towards hosting the 2015 Crocodile Prize award ceremony in Kundiawa.

Guard of honourIn 2015 we continued visiting schools with the literature message.

As more books became available, we grabbed whatever transport we could to deliver them - including ambulances and police vehicles.

We kicked off students’ contests in essays, short stories & poetry – here are the judges at work in April 2015.

It was with great pride that we held the first literary awards day in Simbu. Now we knew our project was succeeding.

A guard of honour of a Simbu cultural group & community police greeted official guests at the 2015 literary awards.

SOME OF THE SWA OUTPUT

Publication of Ku High School Anthology 2014.

Kerenga Kua launches the Ku bookPublication of Simbu High & Secondary Schools Anthology 2015.

Publication of one novel, two poetry books, four collections and two educational books by Simbu authors to mid-2016.

Successfully hosted 2015 Crocodile Prize awards.

Currently in the pipeline: My Simbu, a history of Simbu by Mathias Kin; Aiwara (Tears), a novel by Francis Nii; Dedication, poetry by Jimmy Awagl.

CHALLENGES

We are solving the writing and production issues; we now need to build readership to avoid discouraging writers and potential writers.

Schools do not have funds to buy books and do not get them unless they are made available free of cost.

There is a disappointing lack of support both from government and aid donors to supply PNG-authored books.

Simbu Writers AssociationStories are part of our culture; books are repositories of our culture. What is  it that the authorities don’t understand?

We now need to expand writers’ organisations throughout PNG so we never again lose touch with our own literature.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

My heartfelt gratitude goes to Keith Jackson AM and the PNG Attitude blog; Prof Ken McKinnon AO; and the Paga Hill Development Company all of who developed the fellowship program which made my trip possible.

Thank you also to Philip Fitzpatrick, Bob Cleland, Val Rivers and other good friends of PNG for their work in mentoring and reviving PNG literature.

A nation without literature is a people with lost identity.

Comments

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Philip Kai Morre

Mary Yalomba, thanks for your comment. With the death of Francis Nii, our author and publisher, our strength is weak and it will take many years to find someone like Francis.

However, Simbu writers will meet soon to discuss some issues and carry on. We have many requests coming from students and teachers to join and all are welcome as long as you have shown interest in literature.

Mary Yalomba

I am a Simbu student in Divine Word University and l really like reading the short stories that were published by you guys and would someday want to be a part of this association.

My personal favourite books are Paradise in Peril by Francis Nii and My Struggle by Jimmy Awagl.

Jimmy Awagl

That was a wonderful job which would motivate and captivate to achieve its objective.

Arnold Mundua

Yep...we have to move on, bro! Thanks.

Francis Nii

It's good that you got the pain out of your chest, Arnold. It was painful but it is history now. We have to move it, Bro.

Arnold Mundua

Francis...bro, excellent wrte up! One of the agenda at the birth of SWA on 6th May 2014.was to take the Crocodile Prize Awatds normally held at the Australian High Commision in Port Moresby up to Kundiawa in 2015. Every SWA executive member worked around the clock to secure funding to host the 2015 Crocodile Prize Award. As SWA was hosting the event Kids in schools were encouraged to participate in the competition and entries flooded in the young writers category. The awards hosting plan also included fly winners from a central airport (Port Moresby) to Kundiawa and back, 4 night's accommodaten, scenic tours and the final goodbye. And when the awards night came the entire event was a huge success. SWA set the benchmark for any future organisations wishing to host this national literature event. (Unfortunately, SWA was let down when there was no prize awarded to a writer of the host province in the 2015 awards. SWA members were anticipating one of the prizes to be awarded to our young writers to help encourage SWA's efforts in promoting literature in school but it was a piry there was none. The pain still lingers)

Michael Dom

Em nau!

Ed Brumby

A wonderful presentation, Francis: the Brisbane audience will be knocked out (not physically, of course) by your collective determination and efforts to promote PNG literature.

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