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‘My Walk to Equality’: One year down. What next?

Paradise-Mag-ScreenshotRASHMII BELL

BRISBANE - Today is the one year anniversary of Pukpuk Publication’s release of My Walk to Equality, Papua New Guinea’s milestone volume of essays, short story and poetry written entirely by PNG women.

The book was made available on Amazon on 10 January 2017, launched a couple of months later on International Women’s Day in March and proved to be a great success.

After a short break, the small project team has resumed planning to put in motion the next steps to address the issues raised by MWTE.

Already, expressions of interest have been submitted to showcase MWTE at several Australian inter-state literary festivals in 2018. These include major events in Sydney and Melbourne.

It is intended that a number of Papua New Guinean-based MWTE writers participate, an experience previously enjoyed by fellow writers Francis Nii, Martyn Namorong and Daniel Kumbon in 2016 and Vanessa Gordon, Elvina Ogil, Helen Anderson and Tania Basiou in 2017. I had the privilege of participating in both years.

The positive rapport developed in the past three years with the Brisbane Writers Festival and Sunshine Coast International Writers Festival is envisioned to continue this year. As always, funding is a crucial factor.

Without the tireless networking efforts and generosity of individuals and a small handful of organisations, PNG literature would not be in the progressive state it is today.

People like Keith Jackson, Phil Fitzpatrick, Bob Cleland, Murray Bladwell, Prof Ken McKinnon, Syd Yates, Jo Holman and supporter and donor Gummi Fridriksson are amongst those who have facilitated this process on a domestic and international level.

The acceleration and improvement in Papua New Guinean publishing has been reflected in the rapid domestic and international attention given to PNG writers. But this has not been reciprocated in financing and the PNG government has shown no interest in the country’s literary output in great contrast with other national social endeavours, significantly that of male-dominated sporting codes.

It is past time that governmental support was forthcoming for yjis important national pursuit which, in its most recent restoration, began eleven years ago with Keith Jackson’s PNG Attitude followed by the Crocodile Prize in 2011 and along with Philip Fitzpatrick’s Pukpuk Publications.

And, in addition, to official backing, sponsorship, fellowships, grants and direct funding are all required for commissioning, publishing and circulating PNG-authored literature.

If led by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Department of Tourism, Culture and Arts, expanding the financial base and generating a momentous shift in the profile and work of PNG writers regionally and globally. The success of MWTE shows that this is achievable.

In the three short years of having my writing edited and published, I have observed a slow but steady increase in other PNG writers accessing PNG Attitude to share their writing and engage in dialogue.

Some have gone on to promote the importance of literature and literacy within PNG; others have involved themselves in regional and global literary activities.

The writing of talented Papua New Guinean women and men needs to be nurtured and sustained and opportunities to practice, build confidence and refine the craft must be made available.

In saying that, I am delighted that Tania Basiou, Marlene Potorua and Doloraose Wo’otong were recently announced as finalists in the Tusitala Short Story Competition hosted by The Samoan Observer, which will also result in the publication of an anthology.

As opportunities for international exposure continue but the funds to enable it are not so certain, it is clear a more concerted effort is required.

The PNG Attitude community has done an exemplary job in coaching and equipping writers with skills, knowledge and opportunities, but PNG literature is still not a sustainable proposition.

I wonder whether it may be possible to establish an inaugural PNG Writers Festival in 2018? Certainly the MWTE project has developed a template for such an event. But is the will and the support there?


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Rashmii Bell

The MWTE Project team are delighted to be PNG's candidate for UNESCO's Girls' and Women's Education Prize 2018.

We thank Mr Ponabe Yuwa (PNG National Commission for UNESCO) and His Excellency Ambassador Joshua Kalinoe for acknowledging the vision and work of our volunteer literary project for Papua New Guineans.

Endorsement and nomination at this level is another milestone for Keith, Phil, Pukpuk Publications and the PNG Attitude family's work over the past 12 years in encouraging a sustainable literary culture in PNG.

Heartfelt appreciation for Betty Wakia, Keith and Phil who were an integral part of preparations for the nomination process.

Rashmii Bell

Many thanks and awesome to hear, Mathias.

I'll put your name down and keep you informed as plans develop in the coming weeks.

Mathias Kin

Congratulations Rashmi on the first anniversary of MWTE. You got me thinking over your last line. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a gathering of all our PNG writers once a year? And I think this not impossible. Count me in.

Rashmii Bell

The MWTE team was delighted to receive an invitation to deliver a message to the students of Paradise College (Port Moresby) at their annual intra-school writing competition (ANSI Writing) awards ceremony on Friday 6 April.

A message was delivered by the team via PNG author, Samantha Kusari. The short speech:

A message from the 'My Walk to Equality' Project Team:

Congratulations to all students for participating in the ANIS WRITING competition. It is so wonderful to hear from your staff member (Ms Samantha Kusari) of this annual literary activity encouraged by your school.

Ms Kusari is of course a published Papua New Guinean author and so, you are quite so fortunate to have her literary talent so close by.

The 'My Walk to Equality' Project team is a volunteer group of 45 Papua New Guinean women writers (including Ms Kusari), supported by two gentlemen who have spent over 12 years encouraging, publishing and distributing PNG-authored books. They are: Mr Keith Jackson AM and Mr Philip Fitzpatrick, founders of the Papua New Guinea's annual national literary competition, The Crocodile Prize.

We have the vision of using literature to include the voices of Papua New Guinean women in the national conversation about all social issues. We published an anthology in 2017 that has gone on to reach thousands around the world. It is remarkable the reach and feedback we have received. The world is eager to read writing by Papua New Guineans.

The Team would like to encourage the students of Paradise College of these points:

* Seek and appreciate the support of the teaching staff of Paradise College to develop your writing skills. Be excited about the ANIS WRITING competition every year.
* Read - always read because it is a big part of the developing your writing skills in school and throughout your life.
* Write - because the Papua New Guinean voice on paper is as important as any other voice in the world of writing and literature. This point we'd like to encourage especially for all female students of Paradise College.
* Use every opportunity you find to get your writing published and shared with others. Find out about the Crocodile Prize competition and participate.
* Be yourself - write in a style that you are comfortable. A style that leaves you feeling happy and knowing that you have written as much as you can to the best of your ability. Readers will appreciate your authenticity.

Congratulations to you all on this special occasion, especially to those receiving awards today. Have a positive and productive school year in 2018. - END

Rashmii Bell

In line with the My Walk to Equality objective of active citizen participation (via literature) in addressing and working towards PNG achieving its Sustainable Development Goals, I will be attending the Pacific Health Governance: Knowledge Translation for SDGs in Brisbane, on 15-16 February.

I'll be sharing the information and network contacts with the MWTE writers, several of whom work in the areas in which research directions for the Pacific will be discussed.

A big thanks to Phil Fitzpatrick for organising a batch of MWTE paperbacks for networking purposes at the workshop. Very pleased to see that MWTE royalties continue to facilitate the distribution of our anthology.

Rashmii Bell

Thank you, Gary and John.

John - I think with your current book project '8 Million Possibilities', this would be a fantastic year for a national literary gathering.

With a total of 8 PNG writers presenting at 2 Qld literary festivals across 2 years, I think it's time PNG brought the experience to the nation's readers, established and aspiring writers. .

I'll add too that there's been an incredible amount of MWTE support from our Pacific neighbours Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Fiji, New Zealand etc so including them in some way too would be excellent.

John K Kamasua

Inspiring to read this!

Let's keep at.

Garry Roche

Rashmii, keep up the good work. There will always be some difficulties, but keep going.

Rashmii Bell

Thanks to an invitation by Charlie Lynn, I had the pleasure of spending MWTE's one year anniversary, meeting with Adventure Kokoda team members Tracie Watson and Chad Sherrin. I was inspired by their health, education and leadership initiatives run through their community development arm, Network Kokoda. It was great to share the work of MWTE project made possible through PNG Attitude and Pukpuk Publications. Looking forward to a potential near-future collaboration with the team and their field work in places including Sogeri and Ioarwari.

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