THE first ever appearance by a group of Papua New Guinean writers at the Brisbane Writers Festival in September has just been upgraded to a prime lunchtime slot.
Francis Nii, Martyn Namorong, Rashmii Bell and Daniel Kumbon will participate in the one-hour panel discussion that organisers have entitled, ‘PNG: A State of Writing,’ from 12.30 in Auditorium 2 in the State Library of Queensland conference venue.
Collectively the four writers represent a splendid cross-section of contemporary PNG writing, ranging across the spectrum from novels to poetry, commentary and journalism.
Their names are well known to PNG Attitude readers, of course, and also to those many Papua New Guineans interested in public affairs.
Francis Nii, 54, was born in the remote Karimui Nomane region of the Simbu Province of the highlands. He has a degree in economics and was a banker until a vehicle accident left him paraplegic. He turned to writing novels and is also a past winner of PNG’s national award for journalism and a motive force behind the formation of the Simbu Writers Association.
Martyn Namorong, 30, is from Baimuru in the Western Province. After dropping out of medical school he became a street vendor before turning his hand to blogging and freelance writing. He has been a television host and is now one of PNG’s most prominent political commentators. Like Francis, he has previously won a national award for journalism.
Rashmii Bell, 34, was born in Lae and is a stay-at-home mum with three children under eight who lives with her husband in Brisbane. Rashmii’s fondness for satire and polemical thought shines through her writing, which mainly focuses on contemporary issues of equality and social justice. Her favourite author is John Steinbeck.
Daniel Kumbon, 57, comes from Kandep in Enga Province and started his media career with the National Broadcasting Corporation in 1979. In 1986, he switched to print journalism after completing a university degree and won scholarships to the United Kingdom, USA and Mexico. The veteran journalist has published four books including his recent 'I can see my country clearly now', a memoir of his global travel experiences reflecting on the situation in PNG . Last year won the Crocodile Prize for travel writing.
The three PNG-based writers will start their Australian tour in Noosa, 100 km north of Brisbane on the Sunshine Coast, where they will discuss their participation in the writers’ festival and also informally meet many of Noosa’s substantial community of authors.
In addition to attending the Brisbane festival, they will have plenty of time in the Queensland capital to meet with people from PNG or who have a strong relationship with country.
During their two days in Sydney, along with their tour manager Ben Jackson who is on the verge of taking up a communications job with an Australian development project Port Moresby, Martyn and Daniel have a range of events to get through.
They will meet with Prof Ken McKinnon, a sponsor of the McKinnon-Paga Hill Fellowship program, be special guests at a PNG lunch and have discussions with the Australian Society of Authors and the NSW Writers Centre.