THE Crocodile Prize is Papua New Guinea’s one and only national literary contest. In fact as one of its organisers has observed, ‘Only one out of 22 provinces is not represented in the competition entries’.
That says a lot about the importance of literature to different people and about the potential of PNG writers to produce work which is of relevance in contemporary culture.
It has been only four years since its inception but, with the efforts of many writers, editors, organisers, sponsors, readers and supporters, the Crocodile Prize has swum against the currents of time and tempest.
The Prize began in 2011 and last year presented organisational challenges even though 2012 was considered a watershed year in the turnout of written works.
There is still a long way to go to firmly establish the Crocodile Prize as the beating heart of PNG literary culture, but what started off as a metaphorical whisper between two old blokes has become a whirlwind of activity among young writers, poets and literary critics and observers in Papua New Guinea and Australia.
With the establishment of the Crocodile Prize Organising Group (COG) this year it is hoped that more interested volunteers will join hands to organise and facilitate the continued success of the COG administration, the prize event, writers’ workshops and other positive activities.
One noteworthy offshoot from the Crocodile Prize was the creation of the Simbu Writers Association, led by bush poet Jimmy Drekore and esteemed essayist Francis Sina Nii in Kundiawa. With the writers group now active within the province it is no surprise that Simbu dominated the entries this year.
Another example is a small group of spirited and talented writers headed by Bougainville’s brilliant author and poet, Leonard Fong Roka, also known as Captain Bougainville. Leonard’s growing influence as a recognised author in PNG and especially among his own people is a great help to telling the real stories about the wounds received during the Bougainville crisis years which cannot be simply covered up without being cauterized.
It is hoped that writers from other provinces may also catch the literary flame that the Crocodile Prize has not only rekindled but set ablaze.
This year the contest recorded a high tide of over 600 entries from 130 writers in seven categories, including heritage stories, children’s stories, short stories, essays, poetry, the first ever award for book of the year, and the annual award for recognition of lifetime literary achievement. Each winner has been profiled on the PNG Attitude blog.
Apart from one ship that sank, the sponsors have been marvellous and these awards will be presented to the winners on Thursday 18 September at the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby.
- Cleland Family Heritage Writing Award –Arnold Mundua
- Buk Bilong Pikinini Award for Children’s Writing – Iriani Wanma
- Ok Tedi Mining Book of the Year – Brokenville by Leonard Fong Roka
- People’s Award for Short Stories – Agnes Maineke
- Kina Securities Award for Poetry – Diddie Kinamun Jackson
- PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum Award for Essays & Journalism – Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin
- Ok Tedi Mining Award for Lifetime Contribution to PNG Literature – Sir Paulias Matane
In addition the PNG Association of Australia has anchored the book production program with a very generous sponsorship.
COG heartily thanks the sponsors for their support and we all look forward to the writer’s workshop and prize events. We welcome other PNG writers and poets to take part in next year’s competition.