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.

Monday, 4 November 2013



Available first semester of 2014 at the UPNG Bookshop, University of Papua New Guinea.

About the book
Scattered by the Wind remains today one of the most popular plays in Papua New Guinea. It has been produced several times by notable directors such as Peter Trist, William Takaku, Arthur Jawodimbari and Sophie Naime. The social and religious sentiments felt in this play are those of Papua New Guinea of the 1950s.

Set in the remote villages of Pem and Tototo the play deals with the theme of change and this is reflected on the lives of a traditional and religious family whose head is a simple Anglican priest, Father Ronald Keda. The focus of the play is Father Keda’s and his wife Anna’s anxiety on the effect of change on their children—Ben, James and Eulalia. Free-spirited James shuns the religious beliefs, obedient Ben follows his father’s footsteps and confused Eulalia eventually takes after James.

Looming at the background is the village of Tototo and all its norms of traditional livelihood and existence. Christian beliefs and traditional norms come into loggerheads ultimately, and what ensues is a tragedy that the parents had never imagined.

About the author

Russell Soaba was born in Tototo, Milne Bay Province, in 1950. He received his education in Papua New Guinea, Australia and the United States of America. He teaches literature at the University of Papua New Guinea.

Monday, 28 October 2013


So who gave Samarai Island the name “Dinner Island”?

 Was it Captain James Cook? Captain John Moresby? Or Captain Luis Vaez de Torres?

Captain Luis Vaez de Torres might have as he would have been among the first European explorers to sail past that island in the seventeenth century. Captain James Cook would not have had as there are no records available of his venturing anywhere near the islands of New Guinea in his time as explorer. That leaves Captain John Moresby the key figure in the speculations that he probably was the name giver.

A brief quiz was conducted through a Facebook group Alotau, Milne Bay Province with the following poser:

How well do you know your province and your history? Assuming this were a million dollar question, what would your answer be to this:

Who gave Samarai the name Dinner Island?

Was it Captain James Cook in 1779 (a)? Captain John Moresby in 1873 (b)? Or Captain Luis Vaez de Torres in 1606 (c)?
Just type a, b or c.

26 people participated in this quiz. 10 said A. 12 said B. 2 said C. 1 said “none of the above” and  1 probability.

Those who chose A were noted to be keen observers, often with a light-hearted sense of humor and most important of all, overwhelming love for their home province. They’d embraced the quiz as a worthy gesture of community service to their province. Said one of the participants in this segment of the quiz: “I love history… It’s better to learn from each other about the history of our province…” These probably depended too much on popular opinion and fable as much as oral history and further assumed that Captain Cook rhymed with Dinner Island.

Those who chose B were noted to be careful observers, somewhat scholarly types who were sure of the answer they gave. Some insisted they were right, courtesy of Google and the encyclopedias.

Those who chose C were noted to be more than keen observers but that their speculations depended on creativity such as when history gives one the opportunity to let the human imagination get carried away. They would make great historical novelists.

So eventually, and speaking officially, that is, the answer anticipated was B. It was Captain John Moresby who was recorded to have named the island “Dinner Island” in 1873.

The rest was left to speculation and the eye of that keen observer who says, “I am rather interested in what is not there.”


Sunday, 6 October 2013



A review of the film Mr. Pip


The Papua New Guinean soldier wants to know who Mr. Pip is. His men round up the villagers who are then severely interrogated. A little boy, as slow a learner as Mr. Watts is (for that is Mr. Pip’s real name), says he knows where Mr. Pip is. The boy points out a house and a white man is brought forward. The white man soon realizes the dilemma of fiction and discursive information and in the process of differentiating the two for the benefit of the soldier and his men, he, the soldier, shoots him twice on the chest, calling him a liar and a spy. His body is then dragged to the back of a house and hacked to pieces. To the soldier Mr. Pip is never that fictitious character from Charles Dickens’ novel, Great Expectations, but a master-mind controlling the BRA. The soldier’s next task is to find Mr. Charles Dickens himself and similarly execute him.  


Or so goes the story of this film, Mr. Pip.


When Lloyd Jones set out to publish the novel Mister Pip in 2006, he probably had in mind the Bougainville copper mine as not only the largest mine in the world in 1988 but also a complex multi-billion dollar corporation from which much would be expected, all at the expense of the ordinary Bougainville islander and those that came to live on that island. Schools and other government service agencies on the island were shut down, the people had nowhere to turn to but unto themselves for all possible means of survival as just a few meters next to them was a war raging between the BRA and the Papua New Guinea armed forces. But it was to the people themselves that all bruises and trauma of that war were left, with so many desolate hours of “great expectations” lying ahead of them somewhere in the distance of an unseen future. And the resultant revelation for all of that would be nothing but an abandoned crater, a hole in the ground not worth fighting for.


The journalist Sean Dorney looked at Bougainville and offered extensive reports over ABC and other media publications of atrocities on the island and for which he was threatened or deported.


But this film, Mr. Pip, needs to be understood not so much as a report on what happened on Bougainville as to its insistence on asking some of the greatest questions of literary merit since time immemorial, especially on the plight of ordinary people in extremely difficult circumstances. Miss Xzannjah Matsi and Hugh Laurie join forces to give not only Bougainville but also the whole of Papua New Guinea the best of performances since Abert Toro’s Tukana and the William Takaku-Pearce Brosnan portrayal of Man Friday. The casting was excellent and the use of organic material in the form of raw village talent deserves commendation. Who can judge between character and real life? Who can boast of who’s who in Hollywood or Bollywood but a remarkable piece of literary rendering of ordinary humanity on film, the big silver screen, like this one? There, and only then, do we hear voices of the masters, like Charles Dickens; like Mr. Watts aka Mr. Pip; and that little Buka girl that snaps out of a reverie, out of the strangeness of a long dream just to learn from the wisdom of the crabs and Mr. Dickens that home is where we all want to be and certainly not a thing to be ashamed of. Mr. Pip, the only white man in that village perishes. The other villagers, including Matilda, barely manage to escape. And when they do, there is much to look back to as reminder. In essence, the civil war was utterly senseless.


The film also carries some historical references, through dialogue, character flash backs and certain locations of filming, that trace and reflect upon those famous yet now forgotten black birding voyages of the 18th and 19th centuries. The island of Bougainville has once upon a time been a gold mine of black slavery. Not a single 19th century British novel, be it Dickens or Jane Austen, passes by us without a slight mention of slave trade whether from Africa or anywhere else such as the Pacific islands. Both the author of the novel and the film makers have been careful enough to remain faithful to their historical research data, by sparing us a little of that information. In this film, Mr. Pip, in particular, we are given the opportunity to trace those black birding voyages, when Matilda (the character Xzannjah’s portraying) makes her way from Bougainville to the Solomon Islands, to Australia and finally to Great Britain where she inherits part of a house that belongs to Mr. Pip. Matilda, of course, turns down the offer when she remembers she could not, much as she might have, save Mr. Pip from the PNG soldiers. She inherits rather a copy of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations.


This is a good film. Get to see it soon. 

This review posted simultaneously by Soaba's Storyboard.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013


This is the revised version of Chapter 4 of Russell Soaba's novel, FINAL ISLANDS IN THE SUN. More on this novel can be read on Soaba's Storyboard.



    Earlier at his office in Alotau, Tomwaya had obtained from the passenger for his own business records scant details on what village he was traveling to, how much that would cost, the type of transport appropriate for the trip – except, of course, asking for more information on the client’s employment, location of job, spouse, dependents, next of kin if any, and so on. He simply said fill in this form, sir, and the girls will complete the rest of the details later. He was more concerned with the thought of earning some good money that day. Aside from that, he resolved not to allow any one of his employees handle his brand new and coveted double-cab four-wheel drive in transporting the passenger from Port Moresby, except himself.

     The passenger came in the morning flight surprising those at the Numwaya Nathalie Lodge. Since the whole town would not begin conducting business until 8.00am the shuttle simply left him at the reception desk without any directions of where to go or who to see. But the man seemed to be sure where he wanted to be. Foroga and Mimi were the first to set sight on him, and rushed over thinking of a familiar face only to stop short in their tracks and smile apologetically. Then they had asked, while setting out to prepare breakfast, if he wanted to sign in. There were rooms available, there was also breakfast. The man shook his head.

    When Nathalie and Tomwaya walked over from their abode, they regarded the visitor with the same air of curiosity. Only Nathalie looked the man over a little longer and then being sure he was a total stranger proceeded to the kitchen to begin directing the girls to prepare breakfast. Tomwaya was then left to the duty of asking how he could help the visitor whereupon the man said that he needed transportation to the north coast. And that didn’t sound like a request, Tomwaya thought.

    “Good, I’ll need some forms filled in then… if you don’t mind,” he said instead.

    The man nodded with a slight sniff and followed Tomwaya to his office where a form was given him to look over. Tomwaya then explained the necessity of the forms and left to help with breakfast for the guests of the lodge.

    A while later and as breakfast progressed at the lodge, with chores of the day carefully planned out and each worker assigned a duty, Tomwaya still wondered about the visitor from the city. Some gnat was buzzing around his head, hard to snap at. Finally, he turned to his wife and announced he would be taking the man to the north coast or wherever it was that he wanted to go.

    “There’s five hundred secured,” he said, in a tone that made Nathalie know he was asking for permission to travel that way.

     “I keep my side of the business neat and tidy, my good husband,” she said after a moment of reflection, and her husband heard the crunch of burnt toast in her mouth.

      “Trust me, nothing will go wrong,” he said reassuringly. “He looks like a good customer. Just worry about our guests and the trip to Samarai.”

      Nathalie was not convinced. She had her eyes narrowed at Tomwaya. She had warned him then of whom he chose to transport across the rough terrain from Alotau to the Raba Raba district, including the dreaded Cape Vogel area. Hadn’t he noticed, she went on, they had to let Pomio Queen remain at anchor out at the bay for two hours while the police went through each passenger’s baggage checking for drugs, evidence of arms smuggling, black market liquor and so on. There were rumors going on as well that people from Baniara within Cape Vogel itself were now sporting strange connections with certain religious sects throughout the country, hadn’t he heard? He should be more careful with whom he was dealing. And anyhow, she concluded, you can’t trust these Baniaras. The Deputy Governor of the Milne Bay Province is from Baniara, mind you.

“And you, my dear, are also from Baniara, let us not forget,” said Tomwaya with a smile.

     “I know... and so my concern for your welfare and our business. So listen to me, my good husband. I am serious. You must know your customers well. You must be selective. Think of all those good clients you always have, who pay ready money and without complications – the government ministers, the public servants, the landowners, the academics, the researchers, the lot. Why this one? How can you possibly trust him? ”
     “Nathalie, he looks trustworthy enough. I mean, look at him. He looks… well, imposing, a bit pompous to say the least but, believe me, he would be that sort of character not to stand on other people’s toes. When I talked to him briefly I felt that of him. He would be that kind of man. Too old to be travelling, too grey, a little bent, but gold enough, that’s for sure. He could even be loaded with retirement money, you know - if you’re worried about prompt payments and all that. And, well…yes, there’s something oddly peculiar, something intriguingly familiar about this man – a teacher perhaps? An advisor to some important leader in ages past, perhaps? A professor, even, a millionaire pretending to be poor, or a retired colonel, perhaps? ”

      “You are so sure of yourself in your judgment of character, Tomwaya,” said Nathalie, taking another nab at the overdone toast then swallowing hard at her tea to wash the crust down. “You just talked to him briefly and now listen to yourself go. The next thing you’ll be telling me is that this man, this total stranger standing over there, looks like my dead uncle.”

     Tomwaya almost choked sipping his tea.

     “And which uncle might that be?”

     “The poet.”

     “Ah, that one…yes,” said Tomwaya and appeared thoughtful for a moment.

     He had decided not to argue with his wife any more. But she let him take the north coast road with the passenger.

     Now, as Tomwaya looked at his passenger slumbering away beside him in the double cab four-wheel drive, it occurred to him that his wife could have been speaking sense after all. Did he know his client’s name? All he did was ask the city traveler to fill in the required forms “and leave the rest to the girls” without taking the trouble to check what was written there. Now he just did not know who his passenger was, least of all memorize his name if he had to.


Saturday, 21 September 2013



The babiest of all my children, the last born...

Here she is with her nieces, all precious jewels to me.

Presents and celebrations will come later.

Right now, I want to hug you, cuddle you, cradle you and rock you in my arms, like the day you were born.

Happy Birthday, song of my heart!

Tuesday, 3 September 2013



Thank you Sean R. Ova for your poem, 'Trees', which marks the 100th posting by The Anuki Country Press.

By: Sean R. Ova

Through a historians eyes,

Trees long gone speak of yester – men. 

Through an architects eyes 

Trees erected with nail and bolt express 

Man’s frame of mind.

Through an economists eyes 

Logs strain and bend to stabilise the kina.

Through eyes of piety

Trees are sacred temples of a dwelling.

Through a medical practitioner’s eye,

Trees provide herbal remedies.

Through an astronaut’s eyes,

Trees adorn an otherwise bare earth.

Through a conservationist’s eye, 

Trees are the lungs of the world.

Through an anthropologists eye,

Trees reveal a people’s lifestyle.

Through my Melanesian eyes 

Trees are brothers that support 

Many generations.

Through the loggers eyes

Quantity over – night.

Through a trees own eyes,
Quality growth over a million years.

Monday, 2 September 2013


From my collection titled ‘ Headugu’ (260 poems)

By: Sean R. Ova


Taliu … way out to sea lay a string of wonderland,


Desolate in the purifying and bathing sunshine


There eyes feast a homemade demand,


For the reefs below the waters stand grand.




I should say, hey ! everyday is gay


As the sky glows wide blue and cool waters play –


Once inside it you’d simply forget –


There’s an outer world to regret.




No people live in this motherland


Who fends for herself at night, and


Below indolent fishes feed on her white sand.


Yet beloved; I’ve stolen sight of her naked; first hand




Ambient breezes every time come in curls


While the gulls’ shy borne squeak teasingly as do girls.


Exciting those blissful beach rich shrubs into sway


Wishing I murder my travelling and stay.




But sunsleep enters this dreamscape; not withstand


The sheer remorse of seeing her no more


A rare island pearl in all tropical expand


Vanish; here spoken as second - hand.




In a day if ever you‘d there land


Go then there… as far as your eyes stand


For she is but an abode for souls to disband


So memories hidden are flung to the woken sender


Thursday, 15 August 2013


My good friend, Nelson, at Yonki Dam. He drove us from Lae up to Goroka and back.
I’m sitting here, at home, lounging away over a glass of some California wine, the cheap sort, mind, and reflecting on that trip to the Highlands recently. Such a beautiful country this, what with the right climate and all. No wonder the Americans find it hard to leave, with so many settling here for good.

Some of the spectacles would include the Yonki Dam, a South Korean masterpiece in engineering.

Other spectacles include markets which are good to visit and the things sold there are always affordable as compared to markets in the coastal areas.

Goroka township, at the time of my visit, appeared lay back somewhat, the only areas of activity being the market place and the sports fields.

In all, it was a beautiful country to visit.

Keep an eye out for more on GOROKA EXCELS at Soaba's Storyboard.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Literary Revolutions and Transitions in Papua New Guinea


Literary revolutions and after    

There is a tendency in every third world country that revolutions spring up every now and then, and often in the form of military coups, one after another. The objective of such revolutions is to rid of an old regime. But the outcome of each remains the same: the new replacing the old. The very people for whose rights such revolutions are fought see no remedy beyond the fact that even they remain the same old underdogs through and through. Nothing happens by way of improved infrastructure, social reform and cultural redemption.

By the same token, literary revolutions abound – particularly within the world of media. And the focus of attention is on those handling cultural enterprises through the supplementary pages of well-established major dailies. It is those individuals that come out to the scrutiny of the reading public as men and women of power. The positions they occupy as editors of such supplementary pages therefore carry a great sense of responsibility. And the onus is on them: to publish or to perish.

An editor sitting behind such supplementary sections of a newspaper has very much the same responsibilities as a TV or film producer. It is up to that editor to ensure that his/her newspaper sells. If an editor is seen to be performing rather poorly then the management of that newspaper has the prerogative to fire that editor on the spot. If, however, it is deliberated somewhat that the same editor has been hired on the basis of a contract with the management of that particular newspaper, or some other mysterious arrangement, then that is yet another story. But nine times out of ten, and ethically speaking, that is, he/she should be fired – with or without a contract in place.

In Papua New Guinea such circumstances surrounding supplementary editors and their given management personnel do not readily apply, notwithstanding the fact that their associations are not usually conspicuous. This is a poor indicator if a newspaper wishes to maintain its credibility as an important daily to the society within which it has been licensed to operate as a newspaper at all.

Now we all read the National newspaper. And we all read the Post Courier. Behind these two important dailies we are also aware of who is doing what as a journalist, as an editor, sub-editor or a supplementary editor.

By supplementary editors we mean those taking care of weekend magazines of a daily – quite an important enterprise – real estate and associated company supplements, health, education, women and youth and, of course, cultural programs such as literature, art and music. A newspaper must make itself accommodating enough to cater for all these segments of a society which allows that newspaper to operate and profit at all. And that newspaper must be willing to answer that society’s needs that way at all times, failing which might set us into thinking that even that reputable newspaper’s lot may not be a happy one after all.

That brings us to the question of finding a reasonable kind of association between supplementary editor and management of a newspaper. While that editor strives to keep the society informed of all aspects of its own activity and existence the management must ensure all this is properly focused and in place. And the editor must be well versed in what he/she is dealing with, be it real estate, cultural activities or other. Here, of course, it would be nicer if some focus lay on both parties ensuring a fair representation of cultural activities of that society.

But we must stress on seeing a happier kind of relationship between editor and management of a given newspaper. If the relationship between the two parties is poor, or corrupt in many places as we well know, then the resultant product seen on the supplementary sections of a newspaper will be found wanting. The quality will turn out disagreeably repugnant for the intelligent reader and in many cases simply force even an inexperienced reader to flip over to cartoons, word puzzles and gambling lift-outs. This will mean precisely that because of this poor relationship, albeit lack of communication, between editor and management, the artsy and intellectual needs of the society will be left unanswered. That can also allow a newspaper to become more of propaganda than anything else.

What the whole of PNG media needs right now are those editors of supplementary editions who know their stuff, who snoop around for the best there is that the society itself has to offer. And a very attentive kind of management of each newspaper which can respond readily and positively to what these editors propose to publish.

At this point, some crucial questions need to be asked and answered. Why is there so much lack of cultural representation in the pages of the National and the Post Courier newspapers, particularly in the weekender supplements of each? What happened to the Writers’ Forum of the National Weekender? What is Post Courier doing about representing Papua New Guinea writers, both new and established? What is Post Courier’s story on its lack of coverage of the Crocodile Literary Competitions, an important event for Papua New Guinea writers observed in September of each year? And what is the National’s story regarding the same, especially after sacking several worthwhile writers and columnists for reasons that are too frivolous to mention here? As far as culture and the arts go why are both newspapers so ill-informed, so stubbornly insensitive and illiterate to and about the cultural undertow of the very society they claim to be serving through media?

Indeed these questions need answers. Literature and the arts remain the main backbones of cultural, economic, industrial and political development, albeit revolutions, transitions, transformations, evolutions and change. Both the National and Post Courier must see to it that these important questions are answered successfully for Papua New Guinea. Storyboard could not have thought of a better title for our article than this.
First published in Keith Jackson’s PNG Attitude, 2013.

Saturday, 11 May 2013



Poetry plays an important role in so many ways. In times of war, upon the hour of sorrow or at a much happier occasion. Such poetry, or should we say poetic utterances, abound in Papua New Guinea. Poems by Papua New Guineans wishing to reflect upon all that is happening around them in their country. Whether it is about the persona relaxing along the shorelines of a rural setting, or the plight of women throughout the country, or simply Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s visit to Papua New Guinea, these utterances come to us as strikingly gentle as ever. Each one calls for attentive reading, its sense of humor, its sense of melancholy or foreboding, and it is well that Papua New Guinea poetry overall should sound that way.


We bring to our readers a special poem for an important occasion, and that is the National Haus Krai of May 15th, commemorating in total grievance the lives of those women lost upon our own shores and due to certain social ills that a government makes itself too powerless to control. The poem is “Thoughts of an Old One” by Seli Garap. We are pleased to re-print the full text of the poem here, with the author’s kind permission.





I am an antique, an artifact

My kind are rarely reared, a fact

In a society, to love and protect

In my time, mothers to Respect

My era, safety for women but perfect

In this day and age of disrespect

The western influence side-effect

Now my granddaughters I must over-protect

Society’s willful neglect?

Let us with our forefathers’ values resurrect

Let the National Haus Krai take effect

Let not in vain be the lives wrecked

Papua New Guinea let us unite and reflect

Long have we slept and our women wept

“Women Arise” PNG, stand up tall, not to accept





Prosing A While


I woke up by the sleeping seas

In a hut under a coconut tree

Listening to the waves calling my name

The daylights were slowly waking too

I reached out for my pen on the coconut mat

An began to pour out my dream

On a leaf of a dirty old paper


Stretched a tired arm

Yawned a baby’s yawn

And smiled my sleepiness away

The sun would shine

Oh yes it will

The Lord gives with reason   


Then the birds started to sing

Such glorious tunes never heard before

Danced on the branches nearby



Danced on the branches nearby


Yes I felt joy


Yes I was at peace


By Marie-Rose Sau





Look into my eyes

Far across the skies

The frequency ties

Come look into my eyes

There’s no surprise

We cannot disguise

Chemistry may not be wise

Just look into my eyes

Desire burns and fires

A thousand replies

Let me surmise

I will devise

A plan wise

You will look into my eyes…


By Seli Garap





Red-head chick arrives

A big splash in the water!

Roads temporarily sealed


By John Vada





I’d rather ride the six-foot wave out there

Than be intimidated by its roar

As it crashes on the beach here

So master of the wild billows

Teach me to swim out there

Beyond the shallows


By Steven-Senior Ilave



In reply to “Prayer”


Calm the waves

O master of wild billows

For ocean waves rage all over me

Throw me a lifeline

The peaceful shallows

May my feet rest!


By Roslyn PuruPuru


We thank the authors for their kind permission to reproduce their work here. All copyright including world rights remain with the individual poets represented above.