An occasional series about some of the people administering this year’s Crocodile Prize
LAST year was one of those vintage years for Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin, aged 40 and originally from Kundiawa.
After four years as senior policy analyst with the National AIDS Council of PNG, he won a scholarship to the Australian National University to study for an MA in Policy and Governance.
At around the same time, Sil released his first solo album, Galkope Kuria, with the New Creation Studio.
“The traditional songs are being lost with globalisation,” Sil says, “and I decided to save some for future generations by blending them with contemporary music.”
Not long after there was another triumph: the publication of his long-awaited book, The Flight of Galkope, launched at the PNG High Commission in Canberra.
Sil had found an experienced editor in Phil Fitzpatrick and the work (praised by critics as a “meticulously researched and distinctly Papua New Guinean historical account of an age now past”) is an entry in this year’s Ok Tedi Mining Book of the Year Award.
In the mid-1990s, Sil had quit his priesthood studies to undertake a BA degree at UPNG while, at the same time, becoming a semi-professional rugby league player.
His 10-year sports career saw him pull on the colours of Kundiawa Warriors, Port Moresby Vipers and Brian Bell Bulldogs before he retired in 2005.
Sil had read short stories and novels by authors like Ignatius Kilage, Vincent Eri, Russell Soaba and Chinua Achebe in his high school days and “got the inspiration to one day become an author myself.”
He began to contribute to PNG Attitude in 2011 in articles tearing open and exposing the grind, grit and grime of everyday life in PNG. They have always been well-received by readers and generated much comment.
“It’s a nice feeling when someone in the streets of Port Moresby taps me on the shoulder or shoots me an email telling me they’ve read my article and liked it,” Sil says.
“I owe a lot of thanks to Phil and Keith Jackson for their work with the Crocodile Prize and PNG Attitude which developed the bud that was in me to write.
“The Crocodile Prize has molded, shaped and matured my writing. I’ve improved a lot since I first wrote.
“Two or three consecutive years of writing can change one’s writing ability completely and it happened to me.”
While Sil is critical of the greed and egoism underpinning the more dysfunctional social trends in PNG, he remains a true man of his country.
“PNG is a nation-state with pristine beauty, cultural diversity, a thousand tribes and tens of thousands of years of knowledge.
“This vault of knowledge – the story of our sphere of life - is locked away in the isles, atolls, valleys and mountains, and it is wrapped in a Melanesian flavour.
“We can unlock this vault through writing and give it to the world of literature to savour and marvel at.
“In writing, you forget yourself and your tribe and move towards immortality. It’s as if you continue to live after you die.”
COG – the Crocodile Prize Organising Group – is a committee of 14 Papua New Guinean authors, journalists and administrators. Apart from the Prize, its current major project is to establish an annual writers’ fellowship. Read more about it here. You can visit the Crocodile Prize website here.