Favourite titles

Favourite titles
Whether it is "Redefining literary techniques and devices", "Justifying Papua New Guinea Literature", or "Translating the Bible into Anuki", these offer valuable reading for the paperless student of literature, and indeed the best sort of literary entertainment you can get out of Papua New Guinea. Check them out either on Soaba's Storyboard or The Anuki Country Press.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Cultural Foundations

The sign out at the front gates of the UPNG Waigani campus last Saturday read, “Milne Bay Cultural Day: achieving academic excellence through cultural foundations.”

Storyboard woke up at about 8 am that morning with the recollection that, yes, there must be some kind of gathering at the Drill Hall. So down he strolled by 11.33 am just to witness people walking away from that place where the main cultural activities were supposed to be. What? The festivities have ended much sooner?

Everything about Milne Bay is either culture shock or disaster.
In any Milne Bay gathering, be it a political rally or a cultural show, no one seems to be out and about, looking as if everyone is up to something or is involved in some form of human activity. But the music that comes through the acoustics seems to indicate that there is some activity going on. Even the Drill Hall itself at that hour, the so-called peak hour of any cultural activity, seemed deserted. There were signs of some dignitaries giving speeches through the loud speaker systems, but it was the attitude of the crowd that got storyboard down somewhat into silent lamentations, and that sort of thing. Who is our speaker? What is the message of his speech? And who is he addressing? This little group of betel nut vendors – that is over here by the shade of desolate gum trees? Ah, kapole hinage... egu Alotau.

Nonetheless what storyboard thought he caught wind of was some mention of Alice Wedega being the icon of the province, the name giver, the promise of the nation’s soul from that locality of Papua New Guinea. And it is well that Alice was mentioned because it is through this entity that one hopes to get into the heart of Milne Bay as a province of significance. The main message in Alice Wedega is that we listen – we listen to the heartbeat of our country.

And what that heartbeat seemed to have been telling storyboard that morning was that perhaps the cultural day itself was not properly organized. There were success stories surrounding previous cultural day activities observed at this very Drill Hall but not, sad to say, this one. Ae kafoe, yada melala.

But beneath all that atmosphere of eternal silence, that ever humble looking pregnant silence, lay the spiritual essence of the province itself. Milne Bays are such quiet people one never knows whether they are going or coming. But they are there nevertheless, forlorn and sad, stolid and rigid, but never broken. Ask them to dance and they will; to sing and they will; to build and they will. Perhaps that is what the organizers meant by the phrase “achieving academic excellence through cultural foundations”. But along the surface of things they are truly very unfriendly looking people. They build walls as it were all around them so other cultural groups cannot get into their own silent world. If you ask why they do that the answer is very simple indeed. They are very, very shy people, these Milne Bays. It takes an outsider to break the ice for them. And if an outsider feels he or she is persistently being stared at, don’t worry, a little conversation will do the trick.
So even by 3.30pm the queue at the gate was as long as it was at 11am previously. People were still buying tickets to enter the Drill Hall and enjoy the festivities. A great number came with portable sitting chairs, sitting mats, even pillows and bed sheets – oh dear, but that was the Milne Bay cultural thing.

Only one instance of negative criticism came storyboard’s way when he was moving around the sparsely distributed crowd at the Drill Hall. That the whole province was not represented enough with the necessary cultural activities such as dances and feast making rituals – not necessarily because UPNG lacked the numbers from each district of the province, but because the executive of the student body did not do enough of that protocol homework to include everybody. That complaint came from the Rabaraba faction of the University community, and there were others as well with similar complaints.
When at last the dancers took to the platforms to observe the rituals of food exchange it was not successfully ascertained which districts or language groups were involved. The obvious Trobriand Islands decorations stood out, but storyboard’s party did not seem to be sure if it was the Normanby islanders or some mainland cultural group that was partnering the former. Some spectators said it was the latter while others seemed certain the dancers were from the mainland, usually around the Alotau area itself. There was also confusion as to the paint applied as decoration on the faces of some of the dancers: one moment the same dancers seemed to be dancing in the Trobriand groups, and the next in the Esa’ala group. Oh dear. Then of course there was the convenient explanation that not many Milne Bay students were keen in getting painted and dressed up with the necessary bilas to participate fully at the festivities.

Perhaps in the next cultural festivities we will witness a more balanced sort of representation. Or are we already too tired of the Baniara dancers, quite often an equally highlighted spectacular as compared to the Trobriand one in any Milne Bay gathering? Ah, the splendour of it all. One seems to miss all that, not to mention the familiar mona shouts that proclaim the sacred essence of a traditional Milne Bay feast.

One thing, however, storyboard found memorable at that occasion. The presence of those that create the poetry and song that carries the sentiments of the province itself; Kulusia may have been missing but Hetei Dickson was there, sure enough.

Friday, 5 August 2011

The National Book Week

By Nou Vada and the Storyboard Team.
Principal writer: Nou Vada
This week the Storyboard team convened an emergency meeting of some sort. There was no imminent Nuclear threat as in the pages of Tom Clancy, no revolutionary salutations as in the manuscripts of Marx and Ché, no explosive courtroom drama as in a Grisham paperback; and certainly no Asimov nightmare where the  machines the human race has surrounded itself with become self-aware and in their new-found autonomy, declare war on homo-sapiens. The reason for the emergency meeting of some sort was simple: It is National Book Week.
The Storyboard Team admits it was ambushed by the event like old Fletcher in Trevor Shearston’s Sticks That Kill; killed by Koitabu Assassins. The Motu-Koitabuan villager in this day and age might find the notion of the Koitabu Assassin far-fetched (as an old hanua man used to say, “Dirava, lasi!”), but probably more far-fetched would be the claim that the Storyboard team was ambushed by the National Book Week. 
The truth is, the National Book Week this year, at least at its preliminary stage has been notoriously under-hyped. One theory is that this year we have seen the departure of Sir Paulius Matane from the post of the Governor-General, and with it, the rightly needed hype the National Book Week has enjoyed in these last few years while Matane, a distinguished writer of Books himself, served as the Head of State. The silence this year has been eerie, almost like something off a Stephen King novel. Letters started coming in this week from various schools seeking to secure Storyboard as a keynote Speaker here and a special guest there and so on and so forth. Some of the letters came to Storyboard in the most unconventional of ways, almost like a scene out of the first Harry Potter novel, where Privet Drive is engulfed with Acceptance letters from Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft.
Storyboard this week would like to put up a political statement. Nothing as radical as the Communist Manifesto or the Committee of Ten’s ground-breaking submission on the future of Papua and New Guinea as told in Sir Albert Maori Kiki’s 10,000 Years in a Lifetime, just an encouragement to the Government of the day to keep up the good work in supporting the National Book Week. We’re not asking Parliament to convene an emergency sitting to discuss Willing Suspension of Disbelief in Nigel Krauth’s New Guinean Images in Australian Literature. We’re just showing our support for what we as writers believe is a most worthy cause.
The National Book Week 2011 theme is Books for Lifelong Learning. At the end of Sir Ignatius Kilage’s My Mother Calls Me Yaltep, the character Yaltep remembers his Kuman people of Chimbu Province and remembers a poem a friend once read to him:
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and Heaven; which we are, we are;
One equal temper of Heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield

The poem speaks of the notion of Age and aging. The theme for the National Book Week 2011 asks Papua New Guineans to remember that age is irrelevant in learning because we learn until we die. We learn until we die and the last thing we learn before we die is death and dying. The statement sounds like something straight out of the Book of Ecclesiastes; of course the statement has a bit of indifferent fatalism to it, nevertheless the gist of it is true; that the human being is designed to learn until it meets its demise.
Books have always been the conventional channel of learning. As writers both established and amateur, we at the Storyboard pride ourselves that we are a designated forum for literature and books. The National Book Week is a time to remember books as a manifestation of humanity’s progress from the times of man’s deep conversations with the masalai and the spirits of the trees and the rocks to Newsfeeds and tweets on Facebook and Twitter. 
We at the Storyboard wish to thank the good people of The National for giving us this column to discuss books and the stuff good books are made of and wish all our Readers, across Papua New Guinea, a Happy National Book Week.  

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Change of Government? Let's Celebrate!

 By James St Nativeson

Come friends one and all
Let's celebrate the ascension
Of the new leaders
The old familiar foxes
Donning new costumes
For an eighth month rehearsal

Pray, will there be roads
New airstrips and old re-opened
For comfortable travel
For many?

Will corruption be done away with?
And will newspapers
Quit dancing to the tune of political cronies

Come friends one and all
Let us dance that old dance
Sing that old song
That must never change in tune
Against the same old mob
Wallowing in the same old mud
Of mob rule!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

A New PM for PNG?

Don't panic
Good writers, artists and minstrels one and all
Just last week
Storyboard almost got thrown overboard - again!

But now
What a relief 
That things could be looking 
A little democratic
After all!

 Let the new song
 Ring out
 The new dance choreographed
 And a new chord

Just for once.