IN 2012 I instituted the Cleland Family Award for Heritage Literature in the Crocodile Prize because of my long-held belief that any society benefits from being aware of its social and cultural heritage.
Notice my phrase 'being aware of'. That doesn't mean believe it or not believe it. It doesn't mean accept it or ignore it. It doesn't mean be proud of it or ashamed of it.
It means, simply, to be aware of it.
I hope that today's Papua New Guinean writers accept that idea and record for posterity some of the beliefs and stories from their ancestors. It's up to each writer to judge for themselves what things to write about and what things to ignore.
Which brings me to Nokondi.
I first heard a Nokondi story in 1954 or 1955. He was a mischievous figure who was often blamed for minor upsets in a village or garden.
Nokondi must have stolen the kaukau. Nokondi chased those young boys from the bush. Nokondi was the one who called out teasing comments to young girls in a garden.
He was not a malignant presence and he was known by several peoples through much of the Eastern Highlands.
In 1974, when the Eastern Highlands Area Authority (predecessor of the Provincial Government) was looking for a simple symbol or logo to use on its common seal and stationery, Nokondi was the unanimous choice of the members.
Students at Goroka Teachers College had drawn, painted and made beaten copper images of their idea of Nokondi - until then an orally-described being with one arm, one leg, one eye, one ear and, dare I say it, one testicle.
I simplified one of those images (I understand the copper beating still resides in the Provincial Government headquarters in Goroka), adding a coffee branch to symbolise modern industry.
That logo was adopted by the Authority and subsequently by the Provincial Government. The artwork above is a copy of my original pen and ink drawing.
Another point about Nokondi is that the concept came from the ancestors of those Area Authority members, far preceding the coming of Australians and the introduction of the coffee industry.
If you know a story that depicts the culture, heritage or traditions of your people, you should think of entering the K5,000 Cleland Family Heritage Literature Award in The Crocodile Prize – find more details here.