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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.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Two new literary discoveries

Literature students at the Waigani Campus of the University of Papua New Guinea with their first copy of Drusilla Modjeska's novel, The Mountain.
Last week and some weeks previously storyboard felt elevated by two new literary discoveries of influence in Papua New Guinea literature.

The first was the arrival, at long last, of Drusilla Modjeska’s novel, The Mountain. The second was a collection of poems by Michael Dom, entitled At another Crossroads, compiled as a manuscript and sent to storyboard for review.

Two lovely pieces of work, quite timely and represent all that we would want to know about our country through fiction and poetry.

Storyboard readers may recall a brief review of Modjeska’s The Mountain, in an article entitled The Literary Marvels of Tufi. In that article we have proclaimed the arrival of work exemplifying those done on Papua New Guinea by authors who love visiting the country and who look at our activities, literary or otherwise, with special regard. There are the Trevor Shearstons, the Phil Fitzpatricks and the Keith Jacksons, to name a few. And now Drusilla Modjeska.

Modjeska’s novel starts at the outskirts of Port Moresby, in an isolated area of sparsely distributed savannah vegetation and swamp which will later become known as the Waigani Campus of the University of Papua New Guinea.

The people who start settling in at that area consist of a remarkable collection of academics, young and old, and recruited from the finest schools in Europe and America. They are there curiously to establish a new university which many colonial old timers of the time describe as a “boi’s school.” It is this curiosity that drives a young couple Rika and Leonard to travel all the way from Oxford just to become part of that excitement of the 60s and 70s.

The result is a sweeping story that starts in Port Moresby, moves on to the mountain, which we understand now as Mt Lamington in the Oro Province. Thenceforth, the characters move back and forth in their academic preoccupation of research and study of the area, and then move south east, to the Tufi area, because two of the novel’s prominent characters come from there. There is much excitement involved and as we read our way into the core of the novel we discover a lot of things about Papua New Guinea that are at once enlightening and memorable.

The radical activities of the student politicians of the day, the intermingling of characters consisting of members of staff and their students, the type of discoveries dug up in the fields of anthropology and archaeology, and the emergence of a new literary culture –  these are well represented in the novel.
Somewhere in this beautiful novel we come across radical students in the likes of Milton the playwright, scoffing critic of the atmosphere that surrounds him, snorting adviser to budding politicians who will later hone, shape and mould Papua New Guinea into nationhood. But these Papua New Guinean characters often find home in the company of women like Martha, Rika and men like Don and Leonard, the brilliant visual anthropologist.

Together they shape and form the beginnings of the country’s move towards political independence from Australia. And together they live a sort of life that many will forget except this young man called Jericho, who returns from Oxford one day, to retrace through books the footsteps of those who have gone before him. And what Jericho discovers about the mountain and Papua New Guinea is truly amazing.

A regular visitor to Papua New Guinea, Drusilla Modjeska drops by at UPNG now and then to share thoughts on literature and writing with students and staff there. Her advice to the young generation of aspiring writers: “A young writer – any writer – needs courage, and also patience. Courage to write from the heart, patience to return to draft after draft.”
Michael Dom
From the Estate of Icarus storyboard is pleased to announce the arrival of Michael Dom’s At another Crossroads. This is an exciting collection of poetry that Dom has been working on for some time and now feels that it is ready for publication. A good number of these poems have previously appeared in the National newspaper’s Weekender supplement. These were well-received, making Michael Dom an interesting social and political commentator through poetry.

Storyboard first became aware of Dom’s poetry through the Crocodile Literary competition, an initiative of the competition organizers in Australia and the Post Courier. Dom is a strong supporter of the Crocodile literary workshops and competitions and his contributions to the last workshop held at the Australian High Commission on 15th September 2011 were invaluable. Since then he has not given up the pen and the result is this fine collection of poetry whose themes range from social criticism to environmental concerns and individual thoughts and aspirations and further into the arena of poetics (meaning creative writing observed as a tool for social and political commentary).

In all, At another Crossroads is a lovely collection and storyboard looks forward to the day when all this poetry is published as a book. Here is one such poem followed by a commentary by the poet himself.

A dinghy ride by starlight

There is an echo even now. Awakening
From haunted dreams, late in the night
A memory of a dinghy ride by starlight:

The noise of the motor reverberating
Off the coast, above the rushing waves,
Cold and damp from sea spray and rain:

Phosphorescent glittering streams in
Our passing wake arise from unknown
Depths as we skim their salty matrix:

Dark ragged hills like a rip in the fabric
Of a jet black sky and the ghostly white
Foam of the relentless Solomon Sea:

A shoreline strewn with the debris of
That unending war: A warning to steer
Clear off, but to keep a parallel course:

Speak not of crows for I have seen them
In a mist shrouded morning at Rabaraba
Where they held their nodding congress

And Champion’s surprise at finding me
There upon his arrival was worth a
Hundred voyages into the Anuki Country

Michael Dom
Bubia Station, 04:31AM 21/01/2012

Champion Ando was the name of my traveling partner, whom I was supposed to meet at Alotau. When I arrived there around ten o' clock he had already left early in the morning. I took a bus from Masurina Lodge, went down to town, asked the locals there for a highway truck, got on and made my way around the coast to a dinghy place on the north coast, Awaiama. That's where my dinghy ride began.

Until that time I had never been to Milne Bay in my life. Champion had no idea where I was, and everyone else thought that I was still in Port Moresby.

You can imagine his surprise when he comes to shore at Rabaraba at six o' clock the next morning, to be greeted by myself, standing on the shore, waving to him. He thought for sure I was a ghost (or bewitched). He had some difficulty speaking for a little bit, when I asked him what had taken him so long to get there. It will make a good short story some day.


Saturday, 14 April 2012

A dream gone with the wind

A man and his wife, along with their three children, who had spent 13 years building a home at Tubusereia village would see all that dream shattered by a whirlwind in a matter of seconds early this year.

The exact time and date of that calamity was recorded as 9.00pm, Friday 3rd February 2012.

It strikes us as sad yet fascinating that such a mishap should befall a family in February, a time of year when the planting season is over and when a subsistence family gets settled down to waiting for the gardens to mature. In a way, February is a month of rest for most traditional settings and family units.

But for a thing like this to happen to a man and his family after 13 years of toil and sweat leaves us wondering if it is nature that has strayed from us or us deviating from proper respect and reverence for it.

Haraga A. Sibona had those thoughts in mind when he visited storyboard last week. He wanted the story of this Tubusereia family to be shared by other Papua New Guineans.

The family in question is Mr Malaga Rei’s, a bese along the Dere shoreline of Tubusereia.

Mr Malaga Rei is 57 years old, and with a quietly spoken wife has three children: two adult males namely Odi and Edea and a teenage daughter.

Mr Rei currently works as part of the auxiliary staff of the Port Moresby General Hospital and one can imagine the anxiety that besets most working men his age in Papua New Guinea, especially upon the verge of retirement. Something must be done by way of home and security for family before the nominal age catches up. Hence, the hard work put in by the Rei family over a 13 year period.

But all that effort would go with the wind, as it were, within seconds.
There was something mysterious about the formation of the wind that came swooping in to Tubusereia, mused Haraga Sibona in a passionate mixture of Motu and English narrative.

“It was believed to be a whirlwind,” he said, “that was seen just off shore Taurama Bay, approaching the inner waters of the Bootless Bay and towards the village. According to the villagers there was an unfamiliar stretch of darkness conforming with the features of that oncoming imminent storm. In the midst of this scenario was a faded white image of the whirlwind moving and circling like a disc as it headed towards the village.”

“The wind struck the southern end of the village at about 9 o’clock pm,” continued Haraga Sibona, “blowing down the Rei family house in seconds. The verandah and roofing parts of four other homes within the Dere and Ikanaia beach and shores were simultaneously damaged. In the darkness there were sounds of corrugated iron roofing and timber smashing and ripping apart from the Rei family house. Household materials and items went crashing in the sea or tossed on the shore banks and the hillside. Windows, roofing and wall frames were thrown in the air like pieces of paper over the tops of neighbouring houses. Two power poles were bent, one damaging the timber walkway leading the Rei family house and the other causing partial damaged to a house next door. The aftermath the next morning was a scene of debris littering the beaches of Dere and Ikanaia.”

“Mr Malaga Rei, known to his folks as a humble man who greets fellow villagers with a smile, was thoroughly shaken by this tragedy. On that early Saturday morning he sat in silence on a pile of belongings he has gathered with tears in his eyes. He felt devastated loosing what he termed as his only valuable family asset. Otherwise he was at a loss for words to describe his ordeal which was the first of its kind for him in all his lifetime. His beloved and quiet spoken wife was speechless but gave a wry smile to those who came by to offer comfort.”

At this point Haraga Sibona paused as if searching for words, but continued.

“Mr Rei tried to relay his feelings of how both he and his wife watched their children grow up without any kind of trouble like this one. They built the house successfully; they brought PNG Power to it to light it up. And then tragedy struck. He and his wife were the only ones in the house when that happened. A regular congregation member of the local church he commends the God almighty’s protection for him and his wife’s safety. Their two sons, the second of whom is a father of two children were in the city when the wind struck. Their only teenage daughter was with the other family next door. That family too was hit by the wind causing damage to the roofing parts of their house, but they were all able to escape unhurt.”

As Haraga Sibona completed this story of the Rei family storyboard asked what was being done at this time for the family to rebuild. An appeal was launched, explained Sibona, at the Tubusereia United Church for a general pledge of donations in cash and kind towards the Rei family in their time of despair. The Rei boys, Odi and Edea, have already pledged their intention to rebuild at the same site and are doing what they can to raise the funds. But we hope to spread this story far and wide for those who might want to share these silent thoughts with us and help if they can.  

  Published in the Post Courier’s Weekend Courier, Saturday 7th April, 2012. Copyright © 2012 by Haraga A. Sibona.                         

Saturday, 7 April 2012


Each day I watch you in school
With your Highlands bilum slung on one shoulder
And mouth full of betel nut

At the bus stop you are disguised among everyone
I always wonder whether they recognize you
So down to earth yet noble and professional

When slowly walking home
Do you talk to those who pass you by?
Or perhaps all the writings have destroyed the memory
And the writer must mind the fashion with the tailor

So simple you are
With the power and choice of words in you
Humble and humorous
A whiz in writing
And the style is the man
I admire

By Doreen Philip
(This poem is dedicated to Russell Soaba)