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Covid, a Facebook dare & then - a new book

Baka bina
Baka Bina


Tales from Faif by Baka Barakove Bina with contributions from Emily Sakepe Bina, Amazon KDP Edition, December 2020, $5.00, link here to purchase

PORT MORESBY - Such is life for me that I have published my last three books (Antics of Alonaa, Volume One, Musings from Sogopex and Operesin Kisim Bek Lombo) just before the end of a year.

The result is that during the festive season announcements about them usually get pushed to the side and there are no fanfare.

Looks like being the same for my latest publication, Tales from Faif, now available from Amazon KDP using the above link.

The book is a collection of 10 short stories and three reconstructions of legends - a total of 13 short stories in all, three of them not previously published on PNG Attitude or on my Facebook page.

My Facebook ordeals are covered in this book. When I first tried Facebooking at the beginning of the year, I found it time consuming and addictive. 

I would wander around reading the entries and by the time I finished, time had flown. I was looking at pictures, nothing educational. If anything, it was all un-educational - unfortunately a lot of misinformation. 

One lady using the pseudonym Talita was posting misinformation and conversations were being drawn out from this misinformation.

Talita should have done some research first but other gullible readers read her misinformation as truth and the conversation then became funny. Funny in that the pseudo-Talita believed her misinformation was correct and she stood her ground.

I tried to correct some of this misinformation but after my few attempts got glossed over by people wishing to trade in misinformation, I decided it was best not to try again.

Then Covid struck and all the negativity it generated…. boy, you could literarily see the smoke coming out of Facebook and mobile phones.

Next there came a quiet corner in all that smoke and end of the world gloom. The Poetry PNG Facebook page got lambasted by much inspirational and emotive poetry.

Asi Onzem brought the best tears out of you and Jordan Dean made you want to smack the wall or person beside you.

I tried poetry but it wasn't my cup of tea.

The big thing is we had people out there willing to write. What we need to do is channel that desire to write into writing better prose, be it poetry, essays or stories, including capturing our traditional tales, songs and legends.

With such thinking in mind, I issued a dare on Facebook for anyone to post stories that were not all doom and gloom.

But I could not issue a dare if I was not prepared to respond to the dare myself.  

So I answered my dare with the Cry Me a River series of stories.

The first of these stories was triggered after I heard an old man from a resource rich province trying to talk on the phone.

He had the volume up loud and the person he was talking to was yelling and the old man was yelling back. He was not concerned that there were other people in the room.

The loud conversation was in their Tok Ples. At some point a person commented, “Don't they know how to speak quietly.  Imagine if someone posted him porno noise.”

I took it from there, my imagination running wild about a lauto (elderly) person having a porno experience on Facebook.

It was enough for me to write the four-part series I titled Cry Me a River.

I wrote it in the first person so, while I had people thinking it was a true story about what had actually happened to me, it was really my imagination running in the other direction.

Another themed series I wanted to write were stories around the subject of pineapples.

I have included two of these in this book, My Brother's Marbles and Smoking Pineapple Pipes, the latter not been previously published.

I hope to write some more pineapple-themed stories in a future anthology. If that sounds strange, you’ll just have to buy my book.

The four other short stories in the book are not part of a series. They are on themes I have mulled over during the last few years.

Hanging Balls was submitted to the Commonwealth Writers contest for its 2020 competition but did not get a mention.

Tales from Faif coverI reworked it and reproduce it in Tales from Faif with three other short stories using Tok Ples and Tok Pisin inserts.

There are two short stories on the theme of use of language, Tear Up Your Tumbuna Stories and Lost in Transition. I believe you’ll find them amusing – or even better.

After listening to a recording of Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in a TED talk entitled The Danger of a Single Story, I agreed with her that I would like to let the world know that people like us, Papua New Guineans and Pacific Islanders, do exist in literature.

In this TED talk of July 2009, Adichie expressed her concern for under-representation of various cultures in literature.

She explained that as a young child she had often read American and British stories where the characters were primarily of white origin.

Under-representation of cultural differences could be dangerous, she said.

"Now, I loved those American and British books I read. They stirred my imagination and opened up new worlds for me.

“But the unintended consequence was that I did not know that people like me could exist in literature.”

We as a country must work to get our legends, songs and stories written down and published so that people like us can exist in literature.

To further give power to this statement, Emily Bina is a contributing writer in Tales from Faif with two legends, The Bird Wars and Getipolo's Curse.

In The Bird Wars, she examines the process for getting legends transcribed and published. The process is spelt out in the story.

Emily is mindful of time. All our gatekeepers in rural areas, who knew and told our stories, are ageing fast and dying before we have the opportunity to capture their stories.

I am asking my country people to try to make sure we capture of much of our own culture in written literature as we can.


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Baka Bina

Mr Overland - Thank you for your sentiments. I learn more about myself from your comments. Comedic prose is something that I am learning and the thinking behind it.

I wish to bring a smile to the reader's face as he or she works through my writings.

PNG is an emotional society and I do my little bit to capture that. It is always my fervent hope that I can record the emotions and the reader can see these emotions as I see them.

Most times we don't see them but I'll keep working at it. The crux of my writings in the anthologies are about the fun and games of us children of my time.

It is difficult to convey the humorous titbits as today's children would not have the same experience. That is my challenge to relate in writing the fun activities we created and did out in the wild expanses of rural PNG and hope the modern child can relate to that. Ta.

Chris Overland

I am interested in the fact that Baka Bina does not think he is an inherently funny person. He writes: "I am bad company".

He probably isn't (at least I hope so) but he may naturally be of a serious demeanour most of the time. People can interpret this as being humourless.

This got me thinking about humour and comedy generally.

No one knows why we humans laugh but we all do it at least sometimes. It can be triggered by embarrassment or even fear. Often, we find ourselves laughing at the misfortune of others. Comedians frequently exploit this latter trait.

Charlie Chaplin was asked about why we laugh at the misfortune of others. His response was instructive. He said we laugh because it is not us.

My impression is that comedy is a pretty serious business. There is a long history of famous comedians who, in their private lives, were dogged by anxiety and depression. Tony Hancock and John Cleese are examples of this phenomenon.

The characters they and other comedians create on stage or screen or on the written page presumably draw upon their own life experience in some respects but do not necessarily accurately reflect who they actually are as individuals nearly as much as their audiences may suppose.

A famous UK comedian, Ronnie Barker, always insisted that he was just a writer and actor, with no inherent comedic talent at all. He insisted that he was not a spontaneously amusing person yet he wrote and performed some of the funniest material ever seen on television.

Barker maintained that the purpose of comedy is to point out to the audiences the frailties and foibles of humans generally.

Our vanities, peculiarities and sometimes absurd ideas and behaviours are all a source of comedic inspiration. We often laugh at these characteristics in others while remaining blissfully unaware of our own, which is in itself a source of humour too.

I think that writing and performing good comedy seems to be like any other talent. It takes a certain inherent ability to perceive the comedic potential in peoples' behaviour, combined with a lot of hard work and practice to become good at turning that perception into comedy. In short, making people laugh is a serious business.

So, Baka should be somewhat reassured that not being an spontaneously funny person does not necessarily prevent him from writing good comedy.

Baka Bina

Mr Davidson, thank you, and yes, the urgency is there to record out traditions. And yes, we need to provide the second narrative and the call is all the more important as old people in our societies die - and unfortunately at a faster rate.

Please read about Chimamanda N Adichie. I find her writings enlightening. Chinua Achebe's 'Things Fall Apart' was her inspiration.

Thank you KJ for branding me "the most humorous writer" on your Twitter account.

I admit that somehow my mother misplaced my funny bone the day I was born. I am an introvert and most jokes I make to friends when speaking tend to sound sour. I am not good company.

To compensate for this lack, I attempt to think funny and write funny lines and quirks and hope the reader will see the fun and jokes in the lines that I prose.

Most times I make a mess of them and there are very few that get through to tickle the bones. It is these few occasions that become the diamonds in my prose juggling.

For that you accolade me kudos. I might as well grovel in it for all the rainbows and stars and yodel 'Mita ghoi ha ku piii' to you. Seghaneve!

As they say over the hill from you in Simbu, where I spent some formative years, "Ambai, angra!" - KJ

Simon Davidson

Baka Bina - This is a great achievement in your writing career.

We need to write more in spite of the fact, that writing is a solitary job and many people in PNG are not reading.

We need to write more and get our distinctly Melanesian, Polynesian and Micronesian story to the global audience.

In the galaxy of world literature, our literature can shine as a star and give global readers a different literary fare instead of them being fed from a single narrative.

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