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‘My Walk to Equality’: First ever collection of PNG women’s writing

The story of a grasshopper, a caterpillar & a woman writer

Iriani Wanma & her new bookIRIANI WANMA

SOME people know early on in life what they’re good at, while others discover what they’re good at later. I’m in this second group.

Arnold Mundua wrote recently that he didn’t think he could ever become an author. I never planned to be one either; I just knew I liked to write – a joy I discovered as a teenager through the simple act of composing letters to my family and friends.

It’s amazing how one thing leads to another. In 2014, my story Oa the grasshopper & Kaipa the caterpillar, won the Crocodile Prize for children’s writing.

At the time that award was sponsored by Buk bilong Pikinini and I can recall the moment of disbelief and then uncontrollable excitement when I read Keith’s email informing me I had won.

For me, having my entry included in the Crocodile Prize Anthology that year was an achievement in itself and I was absolutely delighted but to win first prize in the category was definitely the cherry on top.

Then Buk bilong Pikinini decided to publish Oa the grasshopper & Kaipa the caterpillar as a sand-along storybook. It took two years to publish and it was an unforgettable experience for me – from the first rough drafts of illustrations to seeing the actual book itself, which was launched last month at a book fair at the Murray Barracks Sports Hall in Port Moresby.

I was beside myself with excitement when my copy arrived in the mail. Once more, I was in disbelief as I held the book in my hands. I was so happy I almost cried.

I felt it, hugged it, smelt it, I ran my figures over the illustrations while flipping through the pages. I will be ever grateful to the late Marlon Kuelinad for putting his heart into bringing my characters to life, characters I affectionately refer to as my ‘babies’.

It is unfortunate that Marlon and I never got to meet each other as he passed away a couple of months before the book was launched. I am also immensely grateful to Anne-Sophie Hermann, my editor and the founder of Buk bilong Pikinini, for her effort to have my story published. I also want to thank Andrew Kelly, Donna Rawlings and Neil Conning; people behind the scenes, whom I am yet to meet, who contributed to the making of the book.

My newfound journey as an author has been a fun and nerve-wracking at times. The anxious part came at the launch when I had to do a live reading on stage to a group of children. Likewise with media interviews. I know I will get better with more experience.

There will also be a launch in Brisbane but a date hasn’t been set. If you’d like to purchase Oa the grasshopper & Kaipa the caterpillar you can do so at Theodist in Port Moresby or at the Port Moresby Nature Park shop. Alternatively, you can order it online from Buk bilong Pikinini here.

Buk bilong Pikinini also have a pop-up bookshop in Theodist which opens today, so if you’d like to buy some reading books for your kids, Theodist is the place to go.


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Leo Maso Malala

Great achievement. You have & will educate a multitude of kids.

John K Kamasua

Fantastic! Awesome!

Iriani Wanma

Thank you Daniel, Michael, Arnold & Jimmy!

Thank you, Keith, for editing the article! It flows and sounds so much better.

Jimmy Awagl

Congratulations on your tireless achievement. It's great for our kids to read.

Arnold Mundua

Sir Paulias Matane once said in one of his letters to me, 'Its always a good feeling to see your work come out as a book'. And indeed I had that feeling when my first book came out. I am sure it will be no different for you too. You said it all.

When 'Oa the Grasshopper and Kaipa the Caterpillar' first appeared in PNG Attitude I knew the Children's Writings Award will go to that story and indeed you took out that prize. Congratulations on your recent achievement in converting that story into a book.

Michael Dom

Perfect. It doesn't get any better than that.

Well done and congratulations!

Daniel Kumbon

Congratulations Iriani. I will definitely get a copy for my children when I am next in POM city.

Its a pity you did not get to meet the late Marion. Like sub-editors who craft a story before its read in the morning, many people work behind the scenes to get a book published.

I must applaud Buk Bilong Pikini for sponsoring the Crocodile Prize Children's Stories category in 2014 (in 2015 and 2016 it was Paga Hill Development Company which took over when BbP pulled out), for publishing Iriani's book and for working towards improving literacy in PNG.

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