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.
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?