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Getting PNG literature recognised as a nation building tool

Kumbon - James Marape  Dr Lino Tom  Peter Mision Yaki
James Marape with Dr Lino Jeremiah Tom and Peter Mision Yaki and two of my books. Photo taken at Laguna Camp just a few days before Marape was elected prime minister by an overwhelming majority


WABAG - I was privileged to present two copies of my books to James Marape a few days before he was elected the eighth prime minister of Papua New Guinea.

Enga governor Sir Peter Ipatas, Wabag MP Dr Lino Tom, education secretary Dr Ulke Kombra, two national court judges, school principals, bookshop managers and other prominent people have also received copies of the four books I have published so far.

I belong to a group of emerging PNG authors, essayists, poets and social commentators who have steadily published books in the last few years due mainly to the Crocodile Prize annual literary competition.

But not many people including students ever get to read any of these published works.

The education department has made no effort to ensure schools in our country have PNG authored book are on the shelves of their libraries, which would ensure suitable titles for students to read.

In this way students will comprehend and relate more to PNG authored books than foreign books with unfamiliar cultures, ways of life and scenes.

After I presented my books to James Marape and the other leaders, I am optimistic the new government will at least see the significance of literature and the role it plays in nation building.

Kumbon and Jackson
Me and Keith Jackson AM at the Grand Papua Hotel with a copy of ‘Survivor’. Keith wrote the book's Foreword

Literature has the ability to provide knowledge and improve the quality of education in a country like ours where poor literacy rates remain the greatest challenge for people who continue to lack proper educational facilities.

There is an obvious bias in the country that considers that people who pursue career paths in law, medicine, engineering, commerce and similar fields will be more successful in life.

People who are passionate about pursuits like literature, fashion design, music, painting, sculpture and acting are destined to a life of low paying jobs and unproductive careers.

But people fail to realise that literature and other art forms are equally important – they are the essence that holds a nation together and gives it a unique identity.

I believe that every published copy of a news article, essay or book a Papua New Guinean has written is a narrative of the history of this country that should be preserved for future generations to cherish.

Literature serves as a gateway to learning and expands the knowledge of people to understand the world they live in and the wider world beyond.

My latest book ‘Survivor’ is one of the two books I gave prime minister Marape recently. It features three different stories on the suffering of women in PNG.

The lead story is the grim tale of an infant girl who survived a massacre in which her Engan father, Samoan mother and her brother were murdered.

It was a revenge killing for the equally senseless murder of a university student and serious injury of another student in Lae.

The second story in the book is about my wife Julie, who was raised as an orphan after her mother died from stabbing wounds inflicted by her father’s fourth wife during an argument over the theft of a bilum.

Julie did not complete primary education after her father assaulted her for missing one day of school. She ran away to her maternal grandparents’ village where she lived until she was too old to attend school.

My favourite is the third story which centres on an old man - a wealthy businessman and retired diplomat - who wrestles with his conscience to marry a young girl after his beloved wife dies in a traffic accident.

Here are the opening paragraphs:



The Old Man held the framed letter in his trembling hands. It wasn’t typed or anything but a simple handwritten note. The paper on which it was written was from a lecture pad from the university. It had turned a brownish yellow and rusted along the edges but the message was still clear in the glassed frame. It read:

SurvivorWanaku Mono o le… My girl, my heart,

Have you ever stood still to watch a spring sprout out from the ground on the misty trails of the Koe Koname tapu or Bini Apini tapu mountain ranges just before the Ipasakale birds begin to sing in their sweet little voices as dawn begins to break and when mists still cover the valleys?

My love for you is like that – fresh and pure ready to cascade down the mountain slopes mixed with yours to form a river down in the valley. Can you see as I do, our love growing to fullness?

You and I are young and our future is stretched right before us as one sees the Markham Valley from the top of Kassam Pass. I will take your hand and lead you there but I am in doubt you might have other plans – secret plans and names of other people written in the depths of your mind.

I fear you might be taken away from me in the two years of study we have left. This love that is beginning to well up in me might be in vain. Your attention might even be diverted to another direction by your parents whose decision you might be forced to accept.

Tell me what I will do if you are taken away from me? No, I do not wish that to happen, I have decided you should be mine forever. What do you say?

My heart is troubled this early morning as I stand here beside this spring wondering if our love would last a lifetime – the true love that has started welling up within me.

Tell me straight, in which direction your love will flow.

Yours forever.


On the empty space at the far bottom right hand corner of the page was a small note of approval neatly written in his wife, Rosemary’s own handwriting.

It read:

Mono o le - My heart,

Do not be trouble for I will come with you on the trip. You will take my hand and lead me there to the place you have in your mind.

Today, the letter dated June 12th 1976, still hangs on the wall in their family home among a collection of other memorabilia.

The old man reread the letter with glassy eyes as hot tears streamed down the folds of his sunken face. Continuous sorrow in the last year had taken its toll and reduced him to a boney wreck.  He had continued to cry when he discovered the letter in an album Rosemary had privately kept among her personal belongings. He had decided to frame it for the benefit of his grandchildren.

Their initial feelings for each other was etched forever on this letter, an enduring testimony of how much the old man and his dear wife, Rosemary were committed to each other beginning when they were young students.

He couldn’t remember how many times he has read it before going to sleep in the last year since his wife was taken away from him right before his very eyes in a horrible traffic accident on a busy street in downtown Port Moresby.



This short story is an example of how literature, whether poem, essay or novel, can help people read the words and absorb the content and ask themselves: ‘How did this person imagine and write this?’

All writers use literature to expand their writing which is an important tool in the development aspirations of a young country like PNG.

Kumbon and Kramer
Me with Bryan Kramer, who showed how writing has the power to transform a nation

Newly appointed police minister, Bryan Kramer, has demonstrated on social media that effective use of literature can transform a nation and even bring down a government.

Literature provides growth and strengthens people’s minds giving them the ability to think outside the box.

There is no official encouragement for Papua New Guinean writers, but, for those of us involved in its pursuit, literature gives us the greatest satisfaction to record history in draft form for the benefit of future generations.

Copies of ‘Survivor’ are available here from Amazon for US$6.45


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Daniel Kumbon

Thank you my Kaime, Corney, for this generous offer.

I am sure Margaret Potane and Akii Tumu will be pleased to know there is one Engan who is willing to give of his own free will for the benefit of our children.

To their credit they bought several copies of my first book, 'Remember Me', but they were not able to purchase the other copies because of a cash flow problem experienced in the country.

Wabag Primary School and Mulitaka Secondary School got copies on credit bases but they have not been able to pay when they did not receive their TFF funds on time or not all of it.

In that sort of a situation, your offer to have books placed in a central location is most welcome. As you might know the former public library was converted to the Wabag National Court chambers.

I will let Margaret and Akii know that you will donate copies of my other books - 'I Can See My Country Clearly Now', 'Can’t Sleep' and 'Survivor'.

Thank you, Kaime

Note: there are limited copies of 'Survivor' at the UPNG Bookshop now.

Daniel Kumbon

What’s an Engan for, Corney my Kaime?

Our people need such gestures to encourage them along the way.

To their credit, the Director of Commerce, Culture and Tourism, Margaret Potane, and Director of the Enga Taik Anda, Aki Tumu, did buy copies of one book, 'Remember Me'.

They could not buy 'Can’t Sleep' and 'I Can See My Country Clearly Now' because of cash flow problems in the country.

I am sure they will be pleased to receive copies of my latest book, 'Survivor', as well to add to their other titles in the cultural centre library.

Kaime, I will let Margaret and Aki know of your offer to help.
I am publishing this article together with all the comments on social media outlets tonight.

It also appears in The National newspaper’s Weekender today, Friday 21 June.

Jordan Dean

It's refreshing to see one of our writers chat with the PM about the importance of literature and writing. Thank you Daniel.

Corney Korokan Alone

Keep writing Daniel. Your passion and legacy will catch on at the appropriate time. Timing is everything.

Your art is inspiring and challenging many folks already, whether they choose to buy, read and comment here or not.

Does the Enga Taik Anda Cultural Centre have any copies of of your books yet?

I offer to pay for them if not done, so that you can pass them to the leadership team there managing the facility so they can make them available at that important educational space.

Doing that will spur our youngsters to not only get a chance to see the traditional artifacts and books by foreign authors but read our own books where they can get a chance to express themselves in writing too.

Daniel Kumbon

I appreciate all your comments.

Writing is like food, it’s meant to be consumed first here in PNG. We must be interested in our own products – books, music cassettes, paintings etc and promote each other’s work.

Due to the high illiteracy rate and a lack of reading culture, only developed among the literate few, publications by PNG authors might remain untouched for a while yet it seems.

But, like I say, I will keep writing, for it is a passion I have developed in a lifetime. It has become an obsession, hard to stop.

I wish to communicate the present situation with future generations of Papua New Guineans who might be different from the carefree buai chewing, poker playing, drinking, card playing, womanising lot (leaders included) I have witnessed over the years.

Thanks Betty and Melanie for showing interest to buy some of my books. UPNG Bookshop is the only avenue some of my books have been purchased from.

But you can go online to to purchase online using a credit card.

Otherwise, you can send the money to me or send it direct to a tireless friend of mine Phil Fitzpatrick who will order them and have them posted direct to your address.


Daniel’s five books are available from Amazon through these links (and 'I Can See My Country Now' is also available for free download using the link at the top of this home page) - KJ

Survivor -

I Can See My Country Clearly Now -

Remember Me (Stories from Enga) -

Can’t Sleep -

Climbing Mountains -

Regina Mulisya

Sure, with new technology, students will comprehend and relate more to PNG-authored books than foreign books with unfamiliar cultures, ways of life and scenes.

Not all of PNG's advantages are used to their fullest potential and, like any new technology, some people have not yet joined the party.

Thanks for this educative and inspiring article with brilliant ideas for students.

Melanie Pii

Interested to purchase some of your books, let me know how I can do that

Daniel Doyle

Sadly, largely because of so-called 'free education', the Department of Education would have little, if any, money for bulk purchase and distribution of books.

This may change with two good men at the top, the new Minister for Education, Hon Joseph Yopiyopi, who did a sterling job as the NCDC education boss in days gone by, and Dr Kombra.

Meanwhile, perhaps there could be some advocacy and pressure for the business community to engage with the procurement and sale of PNG-authored books which schools could buy from them using their 'free education' money.

Betty Gabriel Wakia

So motivated by your article this morning and would like to purchase some of your books.

Simon Davidson

Hi Daniel - There is a wind of change blowing with the new government's policies on wealth creation.

It will be good if the present police minister, who writes about social and political issues, and the prime minister can support literature and create a good climate for writing in PNG.

Writing is an industry in foreign countries and if this nation supports writing and writers, we can write a million stories and, through literature, writers can generate wealth.

We should think about creating multiple streams of income and writing is one of the ways.

Caroline Evari

Daniel, I am blessed and motivated by your article as I travel on a journey of sharing my writing and publishing experience with school students in NCD in the hope of inspiring the next generation to find passion in writing.

I have a number of books which I will be giving away for free including your book titled 'I Can See My Country Clearly Now'.

Tiri Kuimbakul

Wow, thanks for this. I am inspired to keep on writing.

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