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Paga Hill fellowship may herald a PNG literary festival

Gudmundur Fridriksson
Gummi Fridriksson - a prominent supporter of the development of a modern literary culture in PNG


NOOSA - A year after the publication of ‘My Walk to Equality’, Papua New Guinea’s first-ever collection of essays, stories and poetry written entirely by women, the Paga Hill Development Company has awarded a writers’ fellowship to the book’s editor, Rashmii Bell.

The inaugural award was made to mark International Women’s Day by the company’s chief executive, Gudmundur (Gummi) Fridriksson, a prominent supporter of PNG literature.

The six-month fellowship will enable Ms Bell to attend literary events in Australia and continue to engage with authors, readers and festival committees to promote PNG women writers, PNG literature and explore opportunities to stage a literary event in PNG later this year.

“The MWTE team is grateful for Paga Hill Development Company’s ongoing recognition and support for our voluntary literary project,” Ms Bell said.

MWTE’s overwhelming success indicates a readership wanting a balanced narrative from Papua New Guinea that conveys authentic insights often overlooked by the mainstream media.

“We appreciate the continued contribution made by Mr Fridriksson and PHDC to assist contemporary PNG writers develop a sustainable national literary culture”.

She described the fellowship as another milestone for PNG writers under the mentoring of PNG Attitude publisher Keith Jackson) and Pukpuk Publications publisher Phil Fitzpatrick, whose 12-year-long effort in publishing and promoting PNG-authored literature continues to yield positive outcomes.

“The past three years have been terrific for the development of a large number of PNG writers,” Ms Bell said. “This has included increased exposure in PNG and internationally.

“Hosting a literary event for our aspiring and established writers, illustrators, publishers, sponsors and literary administrators to meet, inspire and share ideas will be a real high point which will build momentum.

“We urge the national government and private corporations to show the same commitment as PHDC and other dedicated financial supporters.”

Ms Bell has spent the last year actively encouraging PNG’s national literature by engaging with writers and NGOs and she is currently on the editorial team of the national book project, ‘8 Million Possibilities’ initiated by PNG Career Development Inc.

Having chaired panels of PNG writers at international literary events in Brisbane and on the Sunshine Coast, Ms Bell is certain that PNG has the capabilities to host a significant festival of its own.


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Rashmii Bell

Toward the end of the Paga Hill Writer's Fellowship, I was contacted by PNG Attitude supporter, good friend, mentor and writer for whom I have much admiration, Dr Trish Nicholson ('Inside the Crocodile: The Papua New Guinea Journals' and 'A Biography of Story').

Trish asked if I may be interested in being a beta-reader for her book in progress.

Congratulations to Trish whose new book 'Passionate Travellers: Around the World on 21 Incredible Journeys in History' was published yesterday, Sunday 28 April 2019.

Below is the link to her guest post with Women Writers blog, in which Trish includes my comments.

A great post with a closing thought that PNG Attitude contributors may wish to contemplate and expand upon in future articles.

Rashmii Bell

An update on the Writers Festival event as outlined as an expected outcome of the Fellowship.

The MWTE Project team express much thanks to CEO Gummi Fridriksson who responded favourably to a funding proposal that was submitted as the first step to staging the intended festival.

The awarded grant of $10,000 has now been diverted to the Crocodile Prize 2019 competition to assist with their literary efforts.

Full details in the article link below:

Rashmii Bell

Like the MWTE Project Report 2017, I have prepared and sent a report to PHDC accounting for expenditure of their financial support and my learning - as shared with PNG Attitude readers via articles and related activities.

Below is the link to the accompanying article I wrote as an overview of my fellowship experience.

I encourage other Papua New Guinean girls and women to seek out opportunities for a writer's fellowship. I'd be happy to assist with proposal writing.

My email is [email protected]

Rashmii Bell

The inaugral PHDC MWTE Writer Fellowship 2018 concluded this past weekend.

In a tweet of thanks (from my Twitter account @amoahfive_oh) to Paga Hill Development Company, Gummi Fridrikkson, Keith Jackson and all whom have reading my writing and/or supported me throughout the past six months, I have received the following feedback:

1. " I learn so much through @amoahfive_oh 's writing and commentary, the @PagaHillDevCo #MWTEFellow18 has been illuminating. I can only begin to imagine what teachings and lessons other PNG women have to share when they are given the opportunity and platform to share these things" - Dr Sofia Bartlett PhD @SofiaRB_88

2. " You have done so much in that time! And your writing (including tweets!) has taught me so much about PNG"
- Dr Lain Cain Gray/ Charming Language @LaraCainGray.

As with the MWTE Project Report 2017 ( ), I will be preparing a fellowship Report to be submitted to PHDC by the end of October.

Rashmii Bell

My eighth (and final) article for the MWTE Writer Fellowship 2018. I wrote about my involvement in a panel event about shaming in PNG & other Pacific nations, and how that paralleled with issues in one of the books from my fellowship library.

Rashmii Bell

My seventh article for the fellowship, I wrote about my experience as a Volunteer at Brisbane Writers Festival 2018.
Delighted that Festival CEO Ann McLean visited PNG Attitude, read and commented on my piece.

Mathias kin

Rashmi, have you set a date for the PNG writers festival yet and where? Please tok save, looking forward to it. I would prefer the venue to be Madang or Goroka. That would be easier for most writers to attend.

Rashmii Bell

This past weekend, I acted as a volunteer at Brisbane Writers Festival 2018.

It was an incredible experience an excellent opportunity to learn the behind-the-scenes operation of a literary festival.

Supervised by Meg Vann (former CEO of Queensland Writers Centre, author and academic), I was given the opportunity to learn and improve skills across all departments of the Festival.

An article about this MWTE Writer's Fellowship activity will follow soon.

Rashmii Bell

This week, I wrote my sixth article for the fellowship: my response to Phil Fitzpatrick's recent and most fitting tribute to PNG Attitude

I'm also pleased to advise that in recognition of the Brisbane Writers Festival's support (2016 and 2017) for PNG writers, I am set to be a volunteer at this year's event.

Looking forward to learning a lot about the way literary events are run, from the 'other' (behind the scenes) side. I will be volunteering across three days of the festival's program.

Rashmii Bell

My fifth article for the fellowship:
I wrote on the trend of destructive dialogue between domestic and PNG women of the diaspora when questions are raised of white Australian women leading Australian NGOs, social enterprises in PNG. I refer to my previous writing (links in article) as examples of where else I've seen this diatribe taking place in PNG. We are in dire need of solutions-focused conversations as a way of PNGns moving forward.

A tweet by Dr Sofia Bartlett on 15 June: "....would be good to C a deep dive, separate to @BarbieSavior issues, inc causes and solutions". A good challenge for all PNGns to take up, reflect and offer thought here on PNG Attitude.

I highly recommend a read of Stan Grant's essay in Griffith Review 60.

Rashmii Bell

Several months ago, I read Claire G Coleman's 'Terra Nullius' and since commencing the fellowship, have read and listened to other accounts of how the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families continues to affect today's generation of indigenous Australia. It is a heartbreaking history.

Yesterday (30 May 2018), I attended a film screening event hosted by the Queensland University of Technnology's Oodgeroo Unit. Entitled 'My Struggle, My Fight', it showed excerpts from the documentary ' Cherbourg Women'. The documentary was filmed by Yamaji filmmaker, Janine Kelly. The film was produced through self-initiative with limited (ie personal) funding.

A brief description of the documentary - as descibed by the Oodgeroo Unit:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are seven times more likely than non-Indigenous children to be involved in the child protection system. This over-representation is particularly so in out of home care whereby children are removed from their homes and placed with non-Indigenous foster carers.

In 2017, Yamaji filmmaker Janine Kelly travelled to Cherbourg Aboriginal Community to document the personal stories of Cherbourg women who have experienced the removal of their children and grandchildren by Queensland Child Protection Services.

These women share their stories of trauma and heartache and the fight to have their children and grandchildren
returned to their families.

This is a thought provoking film that reflects the strengths and resilience of these women and is an important insight for social workers, human service workers, counsellors and anyone working in the child protection and social services sector.

Following the screening, there was a Q&A during which Janine Kelly and several of the women (featured in the documentary) spoke. Whilst sorrowful, it was a privelege to listen to all women sharing their stories and hopes for a future of reconciliation and moving forward together, between white and indigenous (First Nations) Australians.

Rashmii Bell

My fourth article as I complete two of the six months of the Fellowship:

I wrote on language, shifting of blame and developing a narrative that will emphasise citizen well-being and activism of the Hela people in demanding a progressive future from Western operators and GoPNG during the lifetime of the LNG Project. As I wrote in my comments following my article being published,

"... I would appreciate seeing in history books documenting how Hela, as a people and a society, will develop decades after LNG winds up and the Western operators have moved on."

Rashmii Bell

Last Thursday (25 May 2018), I had attended a lecture delivered by long time PNG Atttiude reader and supporter, Professor Paige West. Hosted by the Universiry of Queensland, Prof. West's spoke on ' Displacement and Dispossession in the Melanesian Pacific' focusing on the RPC as it has evolved to its current state on Manus. I am always learning and appreciate hearing about the experiences and perspectives of others. The evening prompted me to think of the last time when the plight of Manusians weighed heavily on my mind - particularly that of the girls and women:

Yesterday, I was pleased to be included in a group of PNGns whom Prof West e-connected to WIRED journalist Louise Matsakis. Louise sought from PNGns reaction to the potential nationwide Facebook shutdown move by GoPNG. Here is a link to Louise's article that ran today (31 May 2018):

Several weeks ago, I was invited and accepted an invitation to write a post for Prof Paige West's blog 'EnviroSociety' ( .

I am thrilled at being offered this opportunity and will be preparing a piece in the coming fortnight.

Rashmii Bell

As mentioned in my recent article (above), I attended the LoveYA Festival on May 12 in Brisbane. The inaugural event was refeshing and a welcome change of pace to my usual reading and writing tone.

A one-day event, I attended 3 of the 4 sessions of the event Progam. I found all sessions engaging, informative and an appropriate and realistic model of which to use as a guide to stage an intended outcome of the fellowship; a writers festival in PNG be delivered as an activity of the MWTE Project.

I had purchased and read Cath Crowley's 'Words in deep blue' prior to the session in which she co-presented with Steph Bowe.

Theirs was an excellent session, and learning of Cath's writing process was both fascinating and informative. She was a delight to meet in-person. Much credit to the LoveYA Committee for replicating the 'Letter Library' as a feature of their program. A picture of the 'Letter Library' will be posted to my Twitter account shorty: @amoahfive_oh

I have completed LoveYA18's online feedback survey in which I commended the panel presentations, particularly the line of questioning - the majority of of which provided valuable information to me as an audience member, and novice of YA literature.

I am happy to forward any links received from LoveYA, to PNG YA writers. My email is [email protected]

Rashmii Bell

Current list of titles I have purchased, read/reading/ yet to read as part of my MWTE Fellowship 2018 library:

•Griffith Review 59: Commonwealth Now

•Griffith Review 60: First Things First

• Quarterly Essay 69: Moment of Truth: History and Australi'a Future - Mark McKenna

• The Monthly (May 2018) - Gross Domestic Hoax

• The Trauma Cleaner - Sarah Krasnostein

• Words in deep blue - Cath Crowley

Rashmii Bell

On the evening of Friday 4 May, I attended the launch event of Griffith Review 60: First Things First at Avid Bookstore in West End, Brisbane.

This new Issue builds on from some of the articles included in the previous Issue: Griffith Review 59: Commonwealth Now, as well as the Quarterly Essay: Moment of Truth by Mark McKenna. Both of which I have read given considerable reflection.

The launch event was presented as a panel discussion, Chaired by Dr Sandra Phillips with speakers Professor Ciaran O'Faircheallaigh, Dr Joanne Watson and to my delight, author Melissa Lucashenko.

The dialogue was centred around the implications and futures direction following the Turnbull government's summary dismissal of the Uluru Statement of the Heart.

Fascinating and so important to hear ideas of political autonomy, self-governance and a perspective that a blanket Treaty is not ideal for the diverse and multitude groups of the First Nations of Australia.

I had listened to Lucashenko speak at the WoW Festival 2018 event in April and have fast come to admire and respect her writing. Professor O'Faircheallaigh I understand has done some work in PNG with landowners, their rights and negotiations within the extractive resources industry.

Dr Watson provided factual information surrounding the Palm Island riots, the biased media coverage and the recent decision handed down by the Courts regarding compensation due to the many indigenous Australians who were victimised and brutalised during the protests following the death in (police) custody of Cameron Doomadgee.

I really enjoyed this event as it not only had brilliant speakers who were articulate in conveying their written work, but also created an atmosphere of audience engagement that resulted in some insightful questions being asked that I had not considered.

Rashmii Bell

Great news for Young Adult literature PNG readers and writers: I will be attending Queensland's inaugural YA literary festival (#LoveYA18) to be hosted by Brisbane Writers Festival (Uplit) in early May.

Looking forward to gathering a stack of information to share with you all. I'm also interested in examining the format and operations of the one-day program. #LoveYa18 is much smaller event than other writers festivals. Elementsptpvr suitable for replication as the MWTE team considers how a literary event may be staged in PNG.

As an addition to the MWTE Writer Fellowship personal library, I have purchased a copy of Cath Crowley's 'Word in deep blue', Crowley will be one of the key speakers of the Program.

Rashmii Bell

Last night, I attended QUT Creative Industries Faculty's seminar series: On the Terrace: Writers and Ideas.

The panel of Nick Earls, Jane O'Hara and Rohan Wilson chaired by Kári Gislason. It was an insightful discussion that ranged across experiences 'place' and literary centres' in a writer's life, publishing, organising and participating in writers festival's. Some excellent questions put forward by Kári, to which all panelists had interesting responses. Certainly something I will put forward to PNG Attitude readers in the coming week.

I enjoyed listening and learnt a lot from all speakers, although Nick Earl is most delightfully comedic!

Rashmii Bell

My second article: I write on informal women's networks, how/ why they function, and meeting PNG Human rights defenders when attending Women of Wonder (WoW) Festival 2018 Brisbane, in early April.

Rashmii Bell

Excited to advise that I will be attending the Sydney Writers Festival in a few weeks.

The festival runs from 30 April - 6 May:

Sessions I have booked in for will include authors: Sarah Krasnostein, Francisco Cantu, Professor Marcia Langton, Stan Grant, Tony Birch and Nakkiah Lui.

Very much looking forward to expanding my fellowship library with titles relevant to sessions. The library itself is a fantastic component of the fellowship, made possible by PHDC.

Rashmii Bell

As a part of the fellowship, I will be writing a series of articles to share information, insights, current debates and thoughts raised at events a I attend/ participate in, and literature I read.

Below is the link for the first article: I write on the impact and effectiveness of former colonial powers aid-funding in both India and PNG. The reflections about India are through its nations writers, Annie Zaidi and Salil Tripathi.

Expanding on the comments Annie Zaidi makes (article link above) about the impact of the diaspora voice, an interview I've undertaken with TNC Pacific Consulting's Dr Tess Newton Cain was published (17/04/18) on DevPolicy blog. In this interview, I too make reference to the potential of impact of PNG's diaspora voice in national public discourse:

Rashmii Bell

Last night (April 11), I attended a session of the 'Perspectives Now' seminar series by the Griffith University Asia Institute held at the Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art. The session was a collaboration with Griffith Review, presenting a seminar; Jane Camens In a conversation with Annie Zaidi and Salil Tripathi.

Some connections between MWTE and the seminar:

• Jane Camens is a co-editor of Griffith Review (several Issues) and is the founder of the Asia Pacific Writers & Translators. MWTE was fortunate to have our presentation at SCIRWF17 featured on the APWT website in the lead up to the festival.

* Annie Zaidi is an Indian writer, poet and filmaker. She was a contributor to the anthology 'Walking Towards Ourselves: Indian Women Tell Their Stories' (Harper Collins, 2016) which of course, inspired the compilation of MWTE (pg 11 cites this).

Both Salil and Annie have written contributions featured in Griffith Review 59: Commonwealth Now. I highly recommend a read.

Fascinating to listen to both Salil and Annie as well as listening to the questions asked by Jane to steer conversation. I did ask a question during the Q&A segment of the session. Will be expanding on that in an upcoming piece.

Rashmii Bell

Another opportunity the fellowship is affording me is to purchase book resources, relevant to the festival sessions I am attending. To date I have purchased (1) Quarterly Essay Issue 61: Moment of Truth by Mark McKenna and (2) Griffith Review 59: Commonwealth Now.

• Session 3: Griffith Review 59: Commonwealth Now. An excellent session with a stellar line up of writers from across the Commonwealth nations. A key question here asked was - do you think about the Commonwealth? Really moved and inspired by the dialogue, particularly that offered by Melissa Lucashenko and Annie Zaidi. Both have written for the current Issue.

Combined with Sashi Tharoor and Salil Tripathi's essays, I couldn't stop thinking of how as a Papua New Guinean of the diaspora, I can very much relate to their experiences of leaving their motherland and residing in another (more powerful) nation of the Commonwealth.

Rashmii Bell

Thank you, Daniel. My thoughts are with with you and the family keeping well.

To kickstart the six-month fellowship program, I attended the: Women of the World Festival 2018 (Brisbane) on Saturday 7 April.

• an event celebrating the women of the Commonwealth, an included activity of CG2018 Gold Coast.

• a Day Pass enabled me to attend 5 informative, thought provoking , inspiring sessions.

• Session 1: Hon Anastasaia Palaszczuk (Premier of Qld) made a powerful stand advocating for the personnel in senior positions in media to do a better job in promoting gender equality in their coverage of women in leadership/ senior roles. I thought a very good point in the context of PNG print media and their efforts when it comes to portraying PNG women's positive contributions to national development as well as rights within society.

• Session 2: A privilege to sit in on a session and listen to the courageous women working on the front lines of conflict and war. Excellent to have Mary Kini (Kup Women for Peace) included in the Panel and hear about her organisations work as human rights defeneders, the Yumi Sanap Strong project et al.

A powerful visual exhibit by YSS was also in the Festival precinct. I had a good discussion with Mary and hope that MWTE may be able to support some of their work around advocating for the implementation of a PNG Human Rights Commission.

Daniel Kumbon

Good work Rashmii. PNG literature needs inspirational role models. And belated Easter greetings to you

Rashmii Bell

I was delighted to spend time in Port Moresby during the Easter long weekend.

I used the opportunity to network and meet with a few of the POM- based MWTE writers, Betty Wakia and Emma Wakpi.

Also a pleasure to have the company of Dame Carol Kidu, who of course has been a terrific supporter of the MWTE Project.

Great connections were made with emerging PNG writer Margaret (Megg) Diro and PNG Schools Debate founder, Vani Nades. We look forward to including both women in the work of MWTE, especially the festival discussions.

Also terrific was the time spent with Gretel Matawan - PNG Content Co-ordination, Library for All Australia. Many thanks to Phil Fitzpatrick and Ed Brumby whom, in the past months, have championed and put forward my name to LFA. I'm looking forward to upcoming projects with LFA, taking along the key messages of MWTE and the MWTE Writer Fellowship.

Big thanks to Dr Lara Cain Gray for the interview now featuring on LFA's blog:

Rashmii Bell

Looking forward to the fellowship's first activity on April 7: Women of Wonder Festival: 'Celebrating Women of the Commonwealth' (Brisbane).

A great line up of speakers & presentations, including writers from the Commonwealth nations presenting with Griffith Review and Natasha Stott Despoja speaking on ending male violence against women.

Most excited to hear PNG's Mary Kini (Co-Founder, Kup Women for Peace) present in the session, 'Refusing to be Silenced'.

Rashmii Bell

Much appreciated, Michael.

Michael Dom

This is good news.

Congratulations Rashmii.

Well done Paga Hill Development Company.

And today was World Poetry Day too.

Rashmii Bell

Thank you, Vanessa. We are an awesome team!

Vanessa Gordon

Congratulations Rashmii! This is great news!

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