THE creation of the Simbu Writer’s Association (SWA) is a significant event in the history of literature in Papua New Guinea.
It is something that both Keith Jackson and I have been waiting to happen.
Simbu writers are by far the largest provincial group represented in the Crocodile Prize. I don’t know why this is so.
Perhaps they are closer to the writing gods up there. Maybe it’s got something to do with the rarefied air or the water in their sparkling streams. Whatever it is, we and Papua New Guinea should be grateful.
This is not to denigrate the other provinces. Bougainville is hot on their heels and we have a good representation of writers from across the nation.
What is especially significant about the formation of the SWA is the fact that it is home-grown. It might be pointing the way forward for literature in PNG.
I know there is a nascent group of writers in the Eastern Highlands and, if the writers of Manus could get together, they would also be a force to be reckoned with.
We recognise the disparate nature of society and culture in PNG and rue the fact that the hundreds of tribes and clans don’t seem to be able to unite to form a viable national consciousness.
But is this a bad thing, especially in relation to something like literature, where a regional flavour is a distinct advantage? You only have to read what is coming out of Bougainville to understand this.
I think the absence of a national consciousness may have been a factor in the failure of the Society of Writers, Editors and Publishers (SWEP) to make real headway.
In fact, it might be timely for what remains of SWEP to consider a name change and a change of focus.
By becoming the Port Moresby Writer’s Association or the Central Province Writer’s Association it may find itself more relevant to the needs of its own local writers.
Perhaps down the track there will be a need for an overarching writers’ organisation in PNG but my gut feeling is that now is not the time; I suspect it will evolve by itself when the time is right.
The SWA is talking about hosting the 2015 Crocodile Prize Awards in Kundiawa. I think this is a laudable goal. It is the sort of thing that demonstrates the importance of provincial writers’ groups.
Francis Nii and Jim Drekore and the other founding members of SWA are to be heartily congratulated on taking this initiative.
They have asserted an intention to maintain a close and ongoing relationship with the Crocodile Prize and I’m sure such a link will benefit everyone concerned and Papua New Guinea in particular.
I also suspect that they have thrown out a challenge to the other provinces. Where that goes will be extremely interesting to watch.