Thanks to colleagues & benefactors, a literary immersion
20 January 2019
BRISBANE - In October 2017, Keith Jackson AM enquired whether I would be interested in attending the Women In Media Conference and, if so, he would sponsor my attendance at the two-day event at Bond University on the Gold Coast.
Without any journalism or media training, I wavered as to my suitability of being seated in the same room as a bunch of over-achieving women in the context of the high-powered organisations headlining the event.
Yet, being closely mentored by Jackson throughout the pilot phase of the ‘My Walk to Equality’ project through preparing media releases and participating in print and radio interviews, I accepted the opportunity he was championing for me.
It would stand as a serendipitous moment in the convergence of literary activities I undertook in 2018.
Enmeshed in stories of professional battle scars and tales of tested wisdom, I walked away from the near-filled auditorium with a key message: ‘If you believe you are deserving and are willing to back it up by working hard - ask! If you don’t ask, someone less deserving will be granted the opportunity’.
This philosophy with the aid of Jackson and Phil Fitzpatrick, encouraged my proposal to Paga Hill Development Company (PHDC) for a writer’s fellowship. On International Women’s Day 2018, PHDC awarded me the inaugural ‘My Walk to Equality’ fellowship.
As a beneficiary over the past two years, I have experienced and observed first-hand the impact of PHDC’s commitment to fostering the development of Papua New Guineans (especially women) who write creatively, critically and strive to engage in public discourse through informed, independent-thinking, articulate and structured prose.
Sincere thanks for this go to PHDC chief executive Gummi Fridriksson and his colleagues for their unwavering support of Papua New Guinean writers.
The increasing activity and influence of a number of Papua New Guinean writers is due to PHDC’s sustained collaborative efforts with the PNG Attitude virtual community.
I should also take this opportunity to thank the invaluable mentoring team of Keith Jackson, Phil Fitzpatrick, Bob Cleland, and Joan and Murray Bladwell and the continuing support of Betty Wakia, Elvina Ogil, Vanessa Gordon, Betty Chapau, Dominica Are, Alurigo Ravuriso-Kali and Emma Wakpi.
The constant chatter and encouragement motivates me to keep on with what we started with the publication of our anthology in 2016.
I also want to express appreciation to Charlie Lynn OL OAM and the Adventure Kokoda team, chief executive Rebecca McDonald, Dr Lara Cain Gray and the Library For All team, whose time and generosity encouraged me to contemplate (and act upon) what I had not thought possible in the arc of creativity.
My home of writing, PNG Attitude, has long been instrumental in editing, publishing and facilitating a wide readership (in the Pacific and globally) on those regular occasions when I have reported about my fellowship and its related activities.
Accessibility to this effective online-platform has been invaluable in encouraging and promoting Papua New Guinean-authored literature. And yet, the circulation of my activities on other platforms has subjected me to uninformed criticism.
On those occasions, I have been sincerely grateful for the public solidarity demonstrated by informed readers when I needed it most.
Like the MWTE Project Report 2017, a document has been prepared to PHDC to account for the financial sponsorship, demonstrate key learnings and skills acquired and demonstrate how these were shared with the PNG Attitude community.
Some of the highlights of the fellowship have been:
A letter of commendation from the Brisbane Writers Festival 2018 volunteer team supervisor, Meg Vann.
Country nomination for the ‘My Walk to Equality’ project in the United Nations Girls and Women’s Education Prize 2018. This was submitted by Ponabe Yuwa, director of the education program in the PNG National Commission for UNESCO and endorsed by His Excellency Joshua Kalinoe, PNG’s Ambassador to Belgium.
Podcast interview with Elvina Ogil, creator of Papua New Guinean women-focused feminist podcast ‘Who Asked Her’. As one of two guests for the first episode I was able to discuss my personal experience as a Papua New Guinean woman writing and publishing in PNG Attitude, the MWTE project and the PHDC Fellowship. The episode remains the most popular so far with 1,296 listens (excluding downloads).
Panelist at the ‘My Fathers Daughter: Telling Stories Series’ pilot event organised by Vanessa Gordon. This was a sold-out live-audience discussion about mental health and Pacific Islanders.
Invitation by Paige West, Professor of Anthropology at Barnard College and Columbia University, to submit PNG-related blog posts to http://www.envirosociety.org.
Development and publication of the ‘Trail of Woe’ series, a seven-part documentary narrative of observations and feedback from carriers, guides and communities impacted by the present-day operation of the Kokoda Trail trek tourism industry. The series was written following the completion of a 10-day trek of the Kokoda Trail with Adventure Kokoda under trek leader Charlie Lynn. The series can be accessed at the PNG Attitude blog here.
Print and radio interviews regarding the Kokoda Trail trek tourism industry on ABC Pacific Mornings, the ABC Wantok program, Radio New Zealand Pacific and the Pacific Media Centre.
Sponsorship by Keith Jackson to attend screenwriting with Wendall Thomas lecture series in Brisbane. My article on the seminar article may be read here.
Interview with Dr Ceridwen Spark, the vice chancellor’s senior research fellow at RMIT University, Melbourne. I was interviewed to provide commentary for publication on my personal views of current and future directions of Papua New Guinean women in the leadership of Papua New Guinea.
All in all, it has been a busy, enthralling, fulfilling and educational period of my life. I’m now looking forward to applying these skills and more in the pursuit of a brighter literary future for Papua New Guinea and especially for Papua New Guinean women.
Women like Rashmii are gaining recognition because of their tremendous struggle to come out of male dominance and suppression.
What most women don't realise now is their intuitive knowledge, skills and gifted minds built in them that need to be explored and developed.
Encouragement and motivation from Keith Jackson, Philip Fitzpatrick and other learned professionals are in the right direction where women will awake from the slumber and to see bright light.
Posted by: Philip Kai Morre | 21 January 2019 at 07:16 PM
Rashmi,you doing wonders for our women. The sky is the limit.
Posted by: Mathias kin | 21 January 2019 at 03:53 PM
What an amazing journey Rashmii. Nothing can stop you now in the pursuit of brighter literary future for our PNG women.
To have these wonderful people believe in us and pushing us forward is a great blessing.
Posted by: Dominica Are | 21 January 2019 at 01:52 PM
Thank you, Simon. I really appreciate your words!
Posted by: Rashmii Bell | 21 January 2019 at 12:29 PM
Rashmii - Little by little one travels far, quipped Tolkien. From small beginnings you have slowly travelled, one step at time and now your writing has bloomed and your literary activity has flourished.
Keep writing. I enjoy reading your elegant prose on PNG Attitude.Thanks also to the PNG writers 'hausman', the PNG Attitude blog. And to Keith, Phil, Ed Brumby and the host of literary stars in their own right from Australia and PNG who have stood to spur a generation of new writers in PNG.
Posted by: Simon Davidson | 21 January 2019 at 09:26 AM
Much appreciated, Ed. Thank you :)
Posted by: Rashmii Bell | 20 January 2019 at 03:11 PM
Your recognition was well deserved, Rashmii. And your response - via your publications, essays and advocacy - does you proud.
Posted by: Ed Brumby | 20 January 2019 at 07:07 AM