THE first day of the two-day 2015 Crocodile Prize award ceremony in Kundiawa, Simbu Province, kicked off at 9 o’clock on Friday under the organisation of the Simbu Writers Association (SWA).
The scene was the Riverside Resort at Wara (River) Simbu; celebrations continued to the foot of PNG’s highest peak, Mt Wilhelm; and they concluded with the literary awards presentation at Mt Wilhelm Tourist Hotel last night.
A decent number of people turned up at Friday’s writers’ workshop chaired by Mathias Kin, mostly young writers and students.
Established writers Bob Cleland, Baka Bina, Arnold Mundua, Daniel Kombon and Joycelyn Leahy gave motivational talks which were very well received.
Among the high school teachers at the workshop were Ware Mukale of Kariweri High School, a strong supporter of SWA.
Another participant was academic Bernard Yegiora of Divine Word University.
After lunch at 2 o’clock, the visitors were taken on a panoramic tour of the mountainous and rugged country around the township of Gembogl.
There was also a session which focused on the management of the Crocodile Prize for 2016 and beyond as arrangements are made to take over the administration from Keith Jackson and Philip Fitzpatrick.
The weekend activities were capped off last night with the presentation of awards and gifts and a number of book launches – a true sign of how far Papua New Guinean writers have come in the last five years.
One of the books launched was the Simbu high and secondary schools’ 2015 anthology, a culmination of SWA’s Simbu for Literary Excellence program for schools.
Minister for Education and MP for Gumine, Hon Nick Kuman, was the guest speaker and other prominent people present included Governor Noah Kool, Provincial Administrator Joe Kundar Naur MBE, Principal Advisor Education Essy Walkaima MBE, the Manager of Bank South Pacific.
The organisation of the annual Crocodile Prize awards event was a considerable feat for the Simbu Writers’ Association as it had never seriously anticipated that hosting the award would actually happen in Kundiawa. It seemed like peppy talk and a wild dream and but it became a reality.
On 6 May 2014 a group of like-minded people with a common interest in literature got together at Mt Wilhelm Tourist Hotel and formed the Simbu Writers Association.
As it was the first gathering, the group had no finance, no constitution and none of the many other requirements that attach themselves to an organised body.
Nevertheless, the idea of Simbus hosting the 2015 Crocodile Prize awards was broached at that very first meeting. Those present liked the idea although no one was sure how it might happen given that the association was merely an infant. Most people treated the idea as a wild dream.
But at subsequent formal and informal gatherings, people kept discussing it and, the more they talked, the more the determination and fire burned in them to turn the dream into reality.
Interest kept growing until it culminated in the official announcement at the September 2014 awards ceremony hosted by the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby. And now the event has happened right here in Kundiawa.
In retrospect, we can now examine what was SWA’s strength for success and what enabled it to create the event from nothing.
Prior to the first Crocodile Prize award ceremony hosted by the High Commission in September 2011 when our good friend Ian Kemish was the High Commissioner, Keith Jackson and Phil Fitzpatrick invitated Jimmy Drekore and me to make a presentation on ways to promote Crocodile Prize in PNG’s highlands provinces.
When Jimmy’s turn came to talk, he offered a PowerPoint presentation on the Simbu Children Foundation (SCF). He did not mention a single word about writing.
Sitting right at the back in my battered wheelchair I could see reflections of indigestion on the faces of participants.
So, when Jimmy had finished talking, the obvious question came from Phil. He asked: “What has Simbu Children Foundation got to do with writing?”
“Francis will answer your question in his presentation,” Jimmy answered. I have never forgotten that question – or the answer.
After question time, I also made a PowerPoint presentation. I graphically plotted the advocacy and promotion of the Crocodile Prize in Simbu linking with the network and platform established by SCF, thereby answering Phil’s question.
Today SWA is leaping and jumping in its aspirations as it rides on SCF’s vast experience and solid platform.
Very importantly the key people in SWA are the same human beings who run SCF and, with the strong support of likeminded people, SWA has been made a success story.
S o a big tribute and thank you to Simbu Children Foundation.