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Essay competition: 10 days to go

PNG-authorMICHAEL DOM
| The National Weekender | Edited

PORT MORESBY - Engan author Daniel Kumbon launched Victory Song of Pingeta’s Daughter, a 400-page book which attempts to trace the history of the Wabag district and Enga, without fanfare.

It is a culturally valuable and epic work and it is unlikely the author will ever make a toea from it. But that’s normal in Papua New Guinea.

Reviewing the book, Keith Jackson wrote in PNG Attitude that “PNG history has most often been told by the colonisers but now home-grown authors are offering another view.

“Prolific author Daniel Kumbon’s latest work, Victory Song, tells the true story of a highlands family from first western contact to today.”

That sounds like a book a few of our members of parliament might have an interest in championing. Or perhaps not.

Earlier, in July 2019, Enga governor Sir Peter Ipatas, Wabag MP Dr Lino Tom, education secretary Dr Uke Kombra, two national court judges and a number of school principals, bookshop managers and other prominent people received copies of four books published by Daniel.

Then finance minister and soon-to-be prime minister James Marape was also presented with four copies of the author’s self-published books.

Daniel expressed optimism that “the new government would at least see the significance of literature and the role it plays in nation building.

“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,” he wrote.

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

By November 2019, however, Daniel reported that he and fellow writers Betty Wakia and Caroline Evari “were struggling to tell our prime minister that literature is very important”.

They had been so sure the prime minister would accept a petition calling for more official engagement with home-grown writing, but it was not to be. To many of us, the disappointment was no surprise.

Anyway, now it’s 2021 and this year we want to hear from our people instead.

At Ples Singsing ( the Papua Niuginian Writers Blog) we believe that supporting PNG authors for PNG readers is a practical way to ‘Take Back PNG’ because we will be giving back to PNG the stories (fiction and non-fiction) that already belong to us and that encompass who we are and what we value in our society.

Promoting PNG writers also means rewarding PNG readers and encouraging PNG thinkers.

It is important that PNG writers and authors understand the thoughts and opinions of their audience. This means we need to hear different opinions and gather more suggestions about the cause of our petition.

You can link to the petition and its 310 signatories here.

We want to read essays from our youth, students in secondary schools, technical, vocational and teachers colleges, and universities. We believe that hearing from you is the best way to determine the value of our cause and decide the way we want to achieve our goal.

This is why we have launched the Tingting Bilong Mi 2020 essay competition, a privately-funded writing contest to engage with young writers aged between 16 and 36 who are currently enrolled in an educational institution.

The essay competition, which ends on 31 January, is free to enter for all Papua New Guinean citizens living in-country. Three winners will be announced in February.

The topic is for you to tell us why you think the PNG government should (or should not) buy PNG-authored books.

We’ll compile the best essays into a book and even have a copy delivered to the prime minister’s office.

Awards, judging and benefits

All entries will be prejudged by a blind panel of six published PNG writers and final judging of the top 10 will be completed by Phil Fitzpatrick (Australian author) and Fiona Hukula (PNG academic and researcher).

The best entries will be published in the Post-Courier and The National newspapers.

Well written essays may be edited and published on the Ples Singsing and PNG Attitude blogs.

Cash prizes are: first place K500, second K300 and third K200.

The three winners will each receive two books by PNG authors valued at K50 each.

Selected essays will be collated into a book which will be published by JDT Independent Publishing, and the school or institute of the winning essayists will receive two copies for their library.

Exceptional and interested writers may be offered six months free coaching and mentoring by senior writers from PNG and abroad, from which they will be expected to produce one critical essay on a topic of their choice.

A small award ceremony may be held at a school in Port Moresby, Lae or Goroka dependent on logistical arrangements or otherwise books will be delivered by mail.

Download the entry form on the blog through this link.

And email plessingsing@gmail.com for more information if you need it.

You can also follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

We look forward to reading what you think.

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