The village as a social battleground
That Special Starch

This is as far as we can go

FN Grave construction
Men of Yobai gather around as Francis Nii's grave begins to be constructed


NOOSA – The email arrived yesterday precisely three weeks after the untimely death of our friend, the eminent Papua New Guinean author, Francis Nii.

Untimely because, as his daughter Charlene wrote in the communication, “he was a strong man even to his last minutes with us”.

But the email revealed that Charlene now had another problem on her hands.

“This is as far as we can go,” as her words in the subject line said, and as the accompanying photographs showed.

Despite his vast energy and productivity as a writer and publisher, Francis was a poor man. Not that he would ever agree with that statement.

As he told me once, his wealth was measured not in money but in the richness that came from his writing and his relationships

When Francis died, his many Simbu friends contributed fully and greatly to the ceremonial and other customary demands expected of them.

FN Empty incomplete grave
"As far as we can go".  Francis Nii's empty unfinished grave

However, as Charlene plaintively wrote, “This is as far as we can go.”

“His cemetery was incomplete due to insufficient funds.

“But,” she reassured me, “my sisters and I are working around the clock to complete it."

It seemed an amount of something over K2,200 (about $1,000) was required for “eight sheets of zinc roofing iron, four galvanised 50mm posts, one load of fine sand and transportation charges” to carry the materials to Francis’s village of Yobai, 50 km south of Kundiawa along a rough hewn track.

It is customary for the family to bear such funerary costs, but Charlene and her sisters had run out of money.

FN Grave
In the unfinished grave, Francis's favourite clothes,  swathed in blossoms and petals, are laid out

So, in the circumstances, appropriating a portion of funds donated by readers for the production of the memorial volume on Francis’s life and work, Man Bilong Buk, seemed the right thing to do.

I was able to reassure Charlene, her sisters and her mother that the friends of PNG Attitude could provide for the completion of Francis Nii’s graveyard.

And so it is happening.

By the way, the fund for the production and free distribution within Papua New Guinea of Man Bilong Buk is still open.

You can remit your donation to this account (and drop an email here to let me know).

Bank details: Transfers to Keith Jackson / NAB / BSB 082-302 / Account 50650-1355

Charlene thought she and her sisters had gone as far as they could go.

Thanks to our readers, we’ve been able to assist them get through to the finishing line.


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Ross Wilkinson

100% support, well done Keith.

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