One year ago, Francis Nii wrote this article proposing how Papua New Guinea’s annual book week could be more relevant and useful by focusing on locally-authored books. Like much of what Francis wrote, his words were perceptive but ignored. This failure to listen to and act on good advice underpins much of PNG’s failure to progress the interests of its people….
KUNDIAWA - It is high time the meaningless and vain annual National Book Week was changed to make it become the vehicle for stimulating tangible benefits to writers and readers.
Every August features National Book Week. In Papua New Guinea gaudy banners of all sizes rustle in the dusty wind. Written on them is an ostensibly witty theme that nobody cares about.
Empty-minded school children in colourful uniforms fill the city arena for the annual event.
For them, it is one of those playtimes. Their predecessors have celebrated it and so will those who come after them.
Whether there is gain for them or not, it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, they will go home without a locally-authored book. That they knew. They had experienced it before.
High ranking government officials and distinguished dignitaries mingle at the overly draped grand podium. It’s their day to showcase their oratory eloquence.
Pompous speeches of vanity ring out in crescendo. Blind ovation reverberates into emptiness in the scorching atmosphere.
No national author is present for the event. No locally-authored book is on exhibition. It is supposed to be a National Book Week celebration of locally-authored books, isn’t it? Who knows why? Who knows what kind of books they celebrate?
A meaningless and derisory celebration that should not be called National Book Week. A slap in the face to the multitude of national authors in this country.
No one even knows or cares to how many national authors there are in the country. Nor what kind of books they produce. Nor what their books look like. Nor how good their stories are. They don’t know and they don’t care to know the importance and value of the books that have been written.
The children go home without seeing a locally-authored book. They don’t embrace a copy on their way home, let alone read one. Is it because Papua New Guineans don’t write books?
No. There are many national authors publishing all kinds of books from non-fiction to fiction, as well as collections.
There is no meaning when national authors are ignored. There is no purpose when nationally authored books are neglected and cannot be read. It is absurdly unfair when the younger generation cannot read books about their own history and culture.
Yet it is called National Book Week and is celebrated year after year with all the pompous grandeur without locally-authored books. Sad vanity, isn’t it?
It’s time to reconsider. Make the occasion more meaningful. Recognise local authors. Make available their books. Stimulate opportunities for tangible benefits everyone – authors and readers alike.
The PNG government and the National Library and Archives need to make a drastic policy shift.
Local authors and their books must be given recognition. Their books must be made available at such important occasions, including National Literacy Week, for school children and the general public to take these books home and to read them.
Revive the provincial public library network throughout the country and stock them with locally-authored books.
Make National Book Week an occasion of celebrating and promoting our own books. It should be the vehicle for nurturing readership for locally-authored books