This is the Foreword to the Crocodile Prize Anthology 2012 which will be launched tonight at the ceremony announcing this year’s seven award winners in the Crocodile Prize national literary contest. Phil Fitzpatrick edited the Anthology
2012 WILL BE REMEMBERED as a tumultuous year in Papua New Guinea. It was a year of political upheaval and uncertainty where the very fabric of parliament, the courts and even the constitution were tested.
This was followed by a frustrating election dogged by disorganisation, faulty electoral rolls, corruption and vote buying.
Many Papua New Guineans were hoping that, at election end, a new batch of younger, better educated and ethically sound politicians would emerge to haul Papua New Guinea out of the political, social and economic morass in which it seems to be mired. Whether this eventuates has yet to be seen.
The year since the last Anthology was published was also a time characterised by tragic events, both in the airline and shipping industries.
There was unrest in several towns with riots and demonstrations related to migration and the relentless pressures of development. There were also individual and horrific tragedies like the beheading of a woman in broad daylight at Koki Market.
If you read this Anthology you will see how many of these events have coloured the stories, poems and articles written in 2012. What also differentiated many of these events was the growing impact and immediacy of social media. In many cases news was broadcast on Twitter, Facebook and a plethora of blogs well before it appeared in the traditional media.
Not only that but it was raw news without the spin added by vested interests. 2012 may well be remembered as the year when social media came into its own in Papua New Guinea. In so doing it has cast a whole new light over politics and life in general. Where it is going is anyone’s guess.
The Crocodile Prize, now in its second year, has been a beneficiary of this digital revolution. This is demonstrated both in the fourfold leap in the number of entrants and entries and also in the subject matter. The competition now seems to be inexplicably linked to digital media in Papua New Guinea.
Keith Jackson and Friends’ PNG Attitude blog is a co-founder of the Crocodile Prize and a significant number of stories and articles published on the blog during 2012 were derived from the contest.
Many new writers, seeing their work published for the first time, were motivated to continue submitting material to the blog to the extent where Keith could happily claim that well over 50% of its content originated in Papua New Guinea - truly reflecting PNG Attitude’s aim of being a forum for the exchange of ideas between Australians and Papua New Guineans.
One of the other spin-offs of the combined success of the competition and the blog has been the exponential growth of readership to include not only the general public but also relevant movers and shakers in both countries.
Many of the entries published on the blog and appearing in this Anthology have been read and sometimes commented upon by politicians and people of influence in Papua New Guinea, Australia and beyond.
There are three important matters worth mentioning which make PNG Attitude and the Crocodile Prize significant.
The first is the willingness of the writers to attach their own names to their work; a small thing you might imagine but in a place like Papua New Guinea, where vendettas an be a way of life, it is something that is particularly brave.
Too often a wise and erudite observation on a blog or in a Papua New Guinea newspaper loses its impact because writers are too wary to identify themselves. It is well known that the power of conviction fizzles quickly to nothing without the courage of identified authorship.
The second matter has been the willingness of writers to think outside the square. Sometimes this has become provocative. I won’t mention names but when you read this collection you will see what I mean. This is refreshing and challenging writing, which provides great food for thought.
The third matter worth mentioning is the quality of the work submitted. There has been a marked improvement from 2011. Not only have the writers from that year improved their skills but we can witness a new crop of talented writers. This augurs well for literature in Papua New Guinea.
When you read the stories, essays and poems in this Anthology you will also notice a distinctive Papua New Guinean flavour coming through, much more so than last year, and most significantly in the poetry. The Poetry contest attracted the most number of entries by far.
You will also notice the balance between male and female writers; in 2012 it is running around the 50/50 mark. This must surely be an indication of the importance and potential of the female voice in Papua New Guinea. Perhaps one day it will be reflected in national politics.
We hope you enjoy this year’s writing and are looking forward, as much as we are, to what 2013 might bring.
For those entrants who didn’t win a prize or haven’t appeared in the Anthology don’t despair. There was a heap of brilliant material that just couldn’t fit. Keep writing. One day your name will be here.
You can order a copy of the Anthology by emailing here - $20 plus $5 p&p in Australia. Ask for information about postage elsewhere in the world