WHAT THE HECK IS heritage literature? Well, it can be lots of things. And there’s lots of it in Papua New Guinea just waiting to be discovered and there’s lots of it known which needs writing about.
There are the cultural stories our ancestors told from generation to generation, some secret men’s or women’s business, some cautionary tales for everybody to know.
They may cover matters like where did we come from, how was our traditional society organised, what were our spiritual beliefs before Christianity and what rituals did we perform to ensure good crops, good weather or good fishing. They may also concern the myths that were common in our societies.
For example, the Eastern Highlands’ Nokondi, who is the figure on the Eastern Highlands province flag with one arm, one leg, one eye, one ear and, some say, one testicle. Different artists picture him different ways, depending on the image they have in their mind. There are lots of Nokondi stories throughout Papua New Guinea – and we’d like to read them.
But this isn’t all there is to heritage literature. It can also include stories from pre-independence days. Many Australians have written about those days from their point of view, as I and others have written books about those times.
In fact, I’m now writing about those days in short story form which I’ll publish in an anthology next year. Our heritage literature award wants Papua New Guineans to write about those days – providing a view of the other side of the coin.
I could keep going, but I’ve probably made my point. All this valuable history of PNG needs to be recorded. It’s no good realising that in a few generations from now that the knowledge has gone. Indeed, a lot is already lost.
Go to it, writers! Give us your stories – or your people’s stories - from the past. Myths, legends, histories, customs, practices, events, beliefs, journeys, discoveries…. There is so much.