What’s written stays written & continues to inspire
The Green Gold of Goroka

A collaboration to honour the women of Papua New Guinea

Women of Papua New GuineaRASHMII AMOAH BELL

SINCE joining the writing community of PNG Attitude in 2015, I have amassed literary wealth in the form of knowledge, critique, and support. And now, with many thanks to Pukpuk Publications, an opportunity to collaborate.

A few hours after the call for submissions to an anthology of PNG women’s writing, I received a congratulatory email from Lindsay Bond; a gentleman whose prose affects me like that of of the ‘old world’ language in the novels of Thomas Hardy.

Lindsay’s vocabulary has an alluring beauty but I am ever doubtful that I comprehend his intended meaning.

Anyway, Lindsay expressed his good wishes for the book project and closed by venturing to (I think) establish with me the desired outcomes. The answer to his enquiry, I believe, is linked to the learning, networking and information sharing by Daniel Kumbon, Francis Nii, Martyn Namorong and me at the recent Brisbane Writer’s Festival.

Audience members in the ‘PNG: A State of Writing’ session will recall the interactive question-and-answer segment. During that time, Daniel asked the gathering, “What do you want to read about Papua New Guinea?” Two responses were significant.


I was first published in PNG Attitude as an entrant in the PNG Chamber of Petroleum and Mines Essays and Journalism Award of the 2015 Crocodile Prize. My essay was entitled, ‘Let the C word run free: desperately seeking collaboration’.

To this day, this article remains the favourite of my published writing.

It reflects best the genre I prefer when considering vexatious modes of human behaviour.

It is my story; a Papua New Guinean woman recounting personal experience that takes place everyday PNG society. It is a record of my observation and interpretation of how Papua New Guineans interact with each other. It offers a suggestion as to how we as a society can foster a paradigm shift when responding in similar scenarios.


Daniel’s question was answered with two main themes: “I’d like to read memoirs” and “I’d like to read more positive stories”.

The purpose of the ‘My walk to equality’ collection I’m assembling is to convey personal experiences as documented by Papua New Guinean women. These experiences must have taken place in Papua New Guinea and encompass one or more of the forms of inequality.

But the contributions should move beyond identifying and lamenting over inequality. Papua New Guinean women are playing their part in reducing inequality and the anthology is planned as a permanent record of this.

Whether through personal initiative, support networks or community engagement, it is important that Papua New Guinean women are recorded as active contributors and influencers in the process of social change.

Who better to provide this than Papua New Guinean women themselves.

The collection will be compiled from the submissions of women authors and it will be published by Pukpuk Publications.

Ultimately, the outcome will be a collaboration amongst people – writers and those who stand behind them – who are determined to continue the process of encouraging and improving the writing, distribution and reading of PNG-authored literature, within Papua New Guinea and abroad.


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Phil Fitzpatrick

It's not a difficult book Bernard. Honest. I don't know why people think it is hard to read. I re-read it every few years to remind myself what good writing looks like. Do the same with 'To Kill a Mockingbird'.

Both read better with the odd dram of Jamesons or Bushmills.

Bernard Corden

Hi Rashmii,
In the movie, Bathsheba was played by Julie Christie. I have promised myself to get through Ulysees by James Joyce.

Rashmii Bell

Hi Bernard - I've just finished 'Far From the Madding Crowd'. I really struggled through the language this time, possibly the hardest of all three. Couldn't stand Bathsheba. What a headache!

Rashmii Bell

Thank you for sharing those great tips,Daniel. Much appreciated.

Dominica Are

PNG Women Writers Up.
I look forward to reading the different personal experiences of my fellow PNG Women and also contribute.

By the way, thank you Daniel for sharing the tips. Its going to be a great help.

Daniel Kumbon

Sorry, that was the New South Wales Writers Centre in Sydney we visited. Mixing it up with the Brisbane Writers Festival.

Daniel Kumbon

We, Martyn Namorong and myself, were kindly given two books to share when we visited the Brisbane Writers Centre in Sydney last month. I came away with both here to Wabag.

A chapter ‘Finding your voice’ in Patti Miller’s book ‘Writing your life, a journey of discovery’ offers four tips for finding your own true voice.

The tips I feel will help many PNG writers. Also, it can help women who have begun to contribute articles to the first of its kind anthology ‘My Walk to Equality’ to be released next year on International Woman’s Day. The project is initiated by Rashmi Bell.

1.Try imagining that you are speaking to a trusted friend as you write. You are not straining to impress, but neither do you impose, nor are you too familiar.

2.Try not to manipulate the reader. That is, try not to get them to feel sorry for you, or angry for you, or impressed and amazed by you. Let your stories speak for themselves. Most readers react strongly against a voice which is telling them too directly how to feel.

3.Read your writing out loud to someone else or onto a tape, every now and then to check the voice. See if the rhythms and expressions sound like you.

4.Read through your writing and check that you have used the kind of words you normally use in speech. For example, have you used ‘sibling’ on the page when you normally say ‘brother’ or ‘sister’? Look to the way you picture things in your mind. Use your own everyday words and our own everyday sentences and your voice will come through.

It is your life story. Write it with the voice that you have inside you. Two singers might sing identical words and tune, but you prefer one because of his or her voice.

Writers too have distinctive voices, which convey their individual being on the page.

Philip Fitzpatrick

The thesis was long ago consigned to the rubbish bin of my misspent youth, Rashmii. It would probably be embarrassing to read now anyway.

Funny you should mention Robert Ruarke, Bernard. His 'Uhuru' was all the rage in PNG in the 1960s. He actually visited the highlands but not sure when, maybe in WW2.

The last page of 'Grapes of Wrath' is where the travelling Okies fleeing the Tennessee dust bowl seek shelter in a barn and find a young boy and his father.

The father is emaciated and starving and the character, Rose of Sharon, holds him and offers her lactating breast to him - only in Queensland!

Bernard Corden

It is somewhat ironic that we are holding a parliamentary inquiry into banking practices and the opposition are calling for a Royal Commission to try and find out what we already know.

Steinbeck's excoriation of the banks in Chapter 5 of the Grapes of Wrath, published way back in 1939, indicates nothing has changed.

Incidentally, the book was banned in Queensland because the final page was considered pornographic.

Bernard Corden

Hi Rashmii and Phil,

Books are so wonderful and your comments have had me reminiscing all morning. My experience with the Mayor Casterbridge was precisely the same as Phil's and watching a BBC screen adaptation, starring Alan Bates, prompted me to read it again and who can forget the performance of Julie Christie in Far From the Madding Crowd, such beauty and innocence.

Rashmii, please persevere with George Orwell and Ernest Hemingway and try Charles Dickens and Aldous Huxley.

I can recall Phil noting that a quick glance across a person's bookshelf is a good indicator of their character and find it quite amazing that in many job interviews I have never been asked which book am I currently reading. It is a much more reliable indicator than qualitative psychological tests.

The USA has indeed produced some gems and I especially like the following:

John dos Passos (The Trilogy), Damon Runyon (Guys and Dolls), Robert Ruark (The Honey Badger), Herman Wouk (The Caine Mutiny, Saul Bellow (The Adventures of Augie March), Jack Kerouac (On the Road)and Irwin Shaw (The Young Lions).

The Poms are pretty prolific too and I enjoyed Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness), Alan Sillitoe (The Loneliness of a Long-Distance Runner), Nicholas Monserrat (The Cruel Sea), Graham Greene (Brighton Rock).

However, my all time favourite, as I have mentioned previously, is How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn. The Welsh spirit still oozes from its pages.

I am currently reading The Rebel Journalist by Nicholas Shimmin, about the life of Wilfred Burchett, the first western journalist into Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped. His son, George Burchett, currently works for ABC and SBS television.

Rashmii Bell

Phil - I'd be glad to read your thesis on Steinbeck if you had an e-copy? Cannery Row is my favourite but Of Mice and Men made me quite sad- I felt betrayed by the outcome of that friendship. Never been able to read 'Grapes of Wrath' past the first chapter...I found the opening scene dragged on a bit too much for me. Winter of Our Discontent is something I'd like to read.

I think I should have held off reading the bulk of Maeve Binchy's titles until I hit my late twenties, instead of my mid teens. They were addictive.

Philip Fitzpatrick

You should try Steinbeck too Rashmii. Maybe start with 'Of Mice and Men' and 'Cannery Row'.

I did a double major in English literature (what is now called an honours degree) and wrote a thesis on him because I liked his work so much. However, as a human being he was an irascible old bastard, just like Hemingway was before he blew his brains out. You've got to give the Yanks credit for their literature if nothing else.

I've forgotten everything else from university but still treasure Steinbeck.

I would have been labouring through 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' in 1962 Bernard. Hated it. Read it thirty years later and loved it. There must be books you shouldn't read until you reach a certain age. Tom Sawyer is a completely different book when read at age 68 rather than at age 10.

Rashmii Bell

Hello Bernard: I noted in an earlier post you'd commented on Susan Sontag and I've been meaning to reply that I hope to get around to reading some of her work soon. I never got around to finishing the first chapter of that Theodore Darlrymple title.

Tess of the Durbevilles and Mayor of Casterbridge I enjoyed, equally. Although I preferred the ending of 'Mayor..' I'm yet to read Far from the Madding Crowd. Thank you for suggesting Guy de Maupassant. How great you remembered I adored 'Love in the Time of Cholera'😀. Hemingway and Orwell I've tried but not gotten past the first
too pages - way over my head.

Recently, I was gifted with a copy of Anthony Marra's 'The Tsar of Love and Techno'. It's already my most memorable book for 2016. Great storytelling and he comes across as a pretty cool guy (YouTube videos). I've just read 'Tehran, Lipstick and Loopholes' by Nahal Tajadod. Good historical information in there but also a really good laugh! Some incidents she spoke about reminded me of how things get done in PNG.

Bernard Corden

Hi Rashmii,

Your choices of John Steinbeck and Thomas Hardy are most admirable. In the UK we were forced to read The Mayor of Casterbridge at school but my favourite Hardy novel is Far From the Madding Crowd.

You should also add Guy de Maupassant and Ernest Hemingway to your list and if you liked Gabriel Garcia Marquez, try Mario Vargas Llosa.

Keep up this excellent work.

Chips Mackellar

Congratulations Rashmii. Best of luck with your project. Keep us all informed of its progress.

Lindsay F Bond

Good to see Francis so opportune. I venture too for those deaf (at least to unjust restriction).
Go on; gladden hearts, should it be ‘ye ken’. Perhaps too (inventing as of lilt in a Mundua word), can manifestation of celebrational and sensational give joy in notions less ‘gendational’.

Rashmii Bell

Absolutely,Francis. Thank you for raising the issue of inequalities facing people living with a disability in society.

Submissions focusing on this area will be most important for the collection of writing.

The theme 'My walk to equality' is based on the 'Reducing Inequalities' goal ofthe UN's Sustainable Development Goals and so it encompasses all forms of inequality,not only that of gender.

Francis Nii

Congratulations Rashmii for initiating this great project. There is something I personally hold strongly that I didn't want to share at first but I think it is worth sharing as food for thought.

In the more general perspective, not only of gender or man-woman equality but disability as well, equality means inclusiveness and exclusiveness is inequality. Think about that for future equality advocacy.

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