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10 November 2017

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Can our local work be taken with impunity?

This recent claim isn’t the only one.

In the 7 July 2017 edition of the Post Courier, it was reported that a Mr Noah Kagai, a maimai from New Ireland, lost his work Wowora, Origin Myth of Malanggan that is now on Amazon.

A quick look up on Amazon shows the work without the name of the author on the cover.

Phil Fitzpatrick says he has lost work and there are many other cases.

At our workplace, we lose claims to work-related publications because these belong to the work and we need to ensure that bosses acknowledge the work that we put in.

The claim by Jordan Dean is endemic in work places. My push to writing on things outside of workplace started because my workplace writing was given over to a consulting firm to put together in a procedural handbook for a substantial sum and with no acknowledgment of the work I did.

They were paid for reorganizing the whole content of my work and for doing the content page.

There are legends and stories taken from traditional settings and published without due acknowledgment. What can we do to protect our work from being taken? The article does not suggest how though it does state in retrospect something should have been done.

For those of us recording and collecting stories, we may be getting local legends that belong to that particular location and people and that recognition is surely due to them.

If we are working with groups that progress literary endeavors, we have to remember that the work coming out from a particular engagement belong to the group.

This piece is troubling but the organisation had costs engaging the writer to be involved in an endeavor and there might have been desired outcomes.

The questions to be asked are: Was putting together a publication part of the outcomes? What were the content of the publication and were there any other persons or group contributing towards the final outcome?

Currently NGO’s have a platform supported by a massive Ausaid funding to work in literary work at where it matters most, early childhood learning. Papua New Guinean writers, illustrators and book creators need to talk to these NGO groups for active participation and to bring out local content, pictures and books. We need not be acrimonious.

We can take a lesson out of this piece and authors, illustrators and publishers must progress engagement with NGO’s including Kokoda Track Foundation, World Vision, Child Fund, Oxfam, Save the Children etc.

Rashmi , i agree with Jordon Dean that you will be smarter the next time around given this experience. The practice of not giving credit to those who actually do and produced amazing things like you described you did , are done, if they can get away with it , by individuals, organisations headed by men and women of all races .Like Jordon alluded to , you will be smarter next time and negiotiate terms and conditions on arrangements like this to protect your work and " intellectual ' rights. Wishing you every success !

I am thinking about setting up a group called 'Let women of colour write and have a voice' to curb all the oppression we've been getting for the last 2000 years.

Oh and great article Rashmii!

Give credit where it belongs. I've written and edited several policies but on the acknowledgement, my name is no where to be found. Credit goes to professor so and so, who at the very least, changed one or two words only.

I know you'll be smarter next time round Rashmii.

Rashmii Bell writes on “Privilege, tokenism & acknowledgement: a cautionary tale”. For folk not familiar with Rashmii’s Sefoa reference, when at Martyrs Memorial School in 1966, the young Prince Charles “stayed with the boys at Sefoa Garden House, slept with them, ate kaukau.” One of those boys (students) was the now Rev’d Lucas Bejigi, until recently priest-in-charge at Sefoa.

Significant for the Kokoda Track Foundation (KTF) is a linking of the words Kokoda and Tufi, the latter being a premium tourism venue for access to visual delights of coastal and underwater 'diversity'.

Sefoa is sited similarly to Tufi, but at a peninsular with no mechanical aid for visitors who choose to climb the step incline from the boat landing, thus somewhat out of reach.

The climb, considerable as it was for Rashmii, is less an encounter than the ‘slight’ with which she was later confronted and of which rightly tells in forewarning to followers.

Even as a white male writer I've been 'done over' by organisations similar to the one alluded to above. It is not such a rare occurrence as one might imagine.

On one memorable occasion a children's book I had authored was taken over and with a few minor alterations published under another writer's name, basically done so they didn't have to pay me. Ironically, I wasn't expecting any payment anyway.

One of the organisations that took us for a ride was Buk Bilong Pikinini. That was unexpected and came out of left field.

While most writers quickly realise they are not going to make much money the compensation is seeing your name on the cover of a book and knowing that people are reading what you have written. When the latter is taken away it can be soul destroying.

With respect to reading lists I don't see anything wrong with people reading white male authors. Some of them are very good and unlike the general populace usually support unpopular but right causes.

The trick is balance. If a reading list is going to have white male writers on it there should also be indigenous and female writers.

I'm thinking about setting up a group called 'Leave White Male Writers Alone' in an endeavour to curb all the flack that we've been getting lately.

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