Asylum and settlement in PNG: who snookered whom?
Can extractive industry transparency help save PNG?

Kovave (how it all began) & poems by familiar names


KovaveTHE FIRST LITERARY MAGAZINE in Papua New Guinea was called Kovave, named after the first stage of the male initiation ceremony in Orokolo.

The journal was pioneered by the indefatigable Ulli Beier and was published by Brian Clouston’s Jacaranda Press in Brisbane.  Ulli paid for the printing costs of the first edition and marketed it through the University of Papua New Guinea bookshop.

The response to Kovave was everywhere positive.  In Australia, Max Harris wrote in his The Australian Book Review of June, 1969: “With the publication of Kovave, indigenous literature in English reaches a new evolutionary stage.”  The New York Library Journal ran a laudatory article in August 1970.  


The pilot edition ran the first chapter of Vincent Eri’s The Crocodile, an autobiographical sketch by John Kadiba, Leo Hannet’s play Em Rot Bilong Kago, as well as a collection of student poetry.

The first official edition, which came out in November 1969 had prose by John Kadiba, Kumalau Tawali and Peter Lus as well as John Waiko’s play The Unexpected Hawk.  There was also a review of Albert Maori Kiki’s autobiography, Ten Thousand Years in a Lifetime.

Kovave was published twice yearly for five years.  After Ulli left Papua New Guinea (he came back later) the editorship was taken up by Apisai Enos.  Kovave was eventually succeeded by several other journals, including Papua New Guinea Writing, Bikmaus and Ondobondo.

Ondobondo was still going in 1984, although there was some doubt over its future.  In that year it was edited by Prith Chakravarti and Patricia Hardy and was published jointly by the University of Papua New Guinea and the National Arts School. 

Russell Soaba was on the editorial board and John Kasaipwalova and Nora Vagi Brash were editorial advisors.

Of special interest to the readers of PNG Attitude is that poetry by Francis Nii and one Loujaya M Kouza featured in the edition.  Francis was a Foundation Year student in Arts and the poems were his first published works.  Loujaya was then working for The Times newspaper and had been published in the very first edition of Ondobondo.  Here are two of their original poems.  And Michael Dom please note - they are lyrical and upbeat.

There is a problem


A-a yes, that afternoon
People waiting for the only transport, the urban PMV Bus.
Small, big, fat, thin, tall, short.
Mostly teenage boys and girls.
All in uniforms of one kind or another.
Blue, green, red, yellow
And the combination of orange and white,
Pen, pencils, rubber, rulers, bags, books held in hands.

Not very long and there it came.
A beautiful 25-seat Coaster.
Clean comfortable cushion seats.
Stylish, dusty bearded man at the wheel.
And next to him a man named Tarangu.
Of the driver’s identity and nature.
Maybe from one mama or papa.
Who knows.

Tarangu counted everyone so as not to miss a toea.
The card-board said Gerehu.
And all the uniformed boys and girls rushed in.
Ge-e-ed-n-n Ge-e-e-ed roared the engine proudly.

The driver drove literally 60
Whistling the typical driver’s tune:
The Highlands Highway tune
Of the Coffee Buyers.

“Driver – driver givim 60 way nambiriwa
Biriwona – Biriwa Biriwona – Biriwa
Driver – driver givim 60 way nambiriwa
Ha-ha driver – driver givim 60 way nambiriwa.”

Hey! Stop driver, two red uniformed girls called.
Off they got at Waigani, the Roots bingo marketing centre
Twenty toea each to Tarangu
“Ten toea more pilis,” said Tarangu
“Mipela students,” said the girls.
“You students?  You tupelo meri!
You no look to me to belong students.
You look to me marit 20 years before.”

“My meri  no school.
Stayin in the house.  No like olsem you.
My meri no putim uniform.
Holim book in hand.
My meri pay 30 toea for bus repair and fuel.
You wastim time for marit
And karim pikinni
You mas pay me 10 toea more.”

“Oi, wire lose or lasi?
Mipela i no work for money.  Mipela students.
Sorry Tarangu, you keep insisting for 10 toea.
Mipela sing out long police.”

Poor Tarangu, poor uniformed people
The food price is shooting high
Great sympathy for you.

Long Tom


A Morobean
Of stock and breed
He stood at 10 feet tall

And those he met
From day to day
Were made to feel so small

Long Tom
They called him
And rightly so
For when they lined men all in a row
Long Tom stood out
Like so and so …

He was a farmer by trade and knew
Just where the peanut butter grew
And every lunch
When time to munch
Long Tom had Peanut Butter Crunch.

His wife
Marie was slim and small
Like Morobean’s most aren’t
Her speciality
Was Sweet Cup Tea
Not Peanut Butter Crunch

So come on home
To Long Tom’s farm
For a drink or two and a yarn

The specialty
No doubt you’ll see
Is Peanut Butter on Sweet Cupt Tea.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Michael Dom

I like, very; more please. Lyrical and upbeat or prose and's all good!

Thanks Phil Fitzpatrick.

Francis Sina Nii

Thanks Phil for this wealth of information on the foundation of the PNG literary magazines.

This kind of chronologically precise historical information is rare to find these days.

The prose is one of my early works and apart from Peaceful Village, I still like this one for its relevance even three decades down the time lane.

After Ondobondo, we started the PNG Writers Union Magazine. After a few publications it ceased. What happened after that I wouldn't know.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)