THE RECENT article by Nathan Lati, extracted from a paper based on his Divine Word University graduate thesis, reveals there are many thinking Papua New Guineans who are aware of their culture and the how it is being diminished by modernisation.
More importantly, thinkers like Naith are also doers; working towards addressing the issues he’s talking about.
Another familiar voice of PNG Attitude, Martyn Namorong, is likewise a doer with his championing of the PNG extractive industries transparency initiative (EITI) through the Papua New Guinea Resource Governance Coalition.
These agendas seem broad and separate but they meet at a single point, well over seven million points – Papua New Guinea’s citizens.
It is clear that Papua New Guineans are still defining what it means to be a PNG citizen or even Melanesian.
This continuing self-discovery requires us all to do what Naith and Martyn are doing, not necessarily through a thesis or a full-time job, but by finding ways of participating in our community, country and democracy.
It is only through participating in our nationhood that we can take control of our destiny as a nation.
Naith understands this about the need to preserve our unique culture.
Martyn understands this about the need for us to be more responsible about our resource use.
Me, I feed pigs.
But that gives me time and lots of olfactory inspiration to write stuff – stuff which gets published by my generous friend, Keith Jackson.
As writers and poets participating in the Crocodile Prize, it is our citizen duty and philosophical prerogative to participate in writing that helps to define us as a nation.
That brings to mind Dolarose Atai Wo’otong’s recent poem, Perfect Gentleman.
Dolarose’s poem describes her personal thoughts about the characteristics of a Papua New Guinean gentleman.
There is real socio-cultural value in the issue Dolarose addresses in her poem: what does the modern Papua New Guinean gentleman look like? What does he do? What does being a gentleman mean in our culture today?
In our male dominated society, predominantly afflicted by male insecurity, I think the agenda is worth exploring and I’m really looking forward to reading PNG writers thinking on this topic, especially with crimes such as witch hunting, rape and domestic violence being on the national agenda.
I was musing on Dolarose work – initially posting three modified lines – and this made me think that perhaps I was adding my own impression into the creation.
While reading the Crocodile Prize website, I found an excellent example of Chip Mackellar’s editing on Jimmy Awagl’s poem, People of the back page.
It is very instructive for poets to do work with Chip Mackellar, who can impart his fine skills through the editing process. That’s a valuable service he’s providing freely.
Mr Mackellar’s skill transformed Jimmy’s poem into a very eloquent ballad. But I have to admit I really enjoyed the ‘ruggedness’ of Jimmy’s original work. It was so clearly a Simbu man talking – to me.
That’s an important dimension of poetry – voice.
Here’s what President Barack Obama said about using your voice: “Voting is the most fundamental and sacred right of our democracy. I believe it should be almost as easy as voting on American Idol. But when we choose not to vote, we surrender that right to someone else.”
Freedom of expression is a famous pillar of democracy.
So, when writing poetry, try to know your voice: listen to the poem as you write it; think of your audience; write the sound of how you would speak your words to them.
I have written what my take was on Dolarose’s poem and also translated it into Tok Pisin (in spite of those ignorant gnats who still say the language is no good).
There’s a lot to be said about the creative process and about being Papua New Guinean. And about how we can move forward as a responsible nation filled with good, respectful citizens – gentlemen and ladies.
A PNG gentleman
Inspired by Dolarose Atai Wo’otong’s 'Perfect gentleman'
His claim to skill does not shout
Nor do his eyes deny his truth
He stands within himself–immovable–his will is rock
But at his speech enemies dissolve
In his one flaw – magnanimity to all.
His name is well known in the hausman
And the wood smoke recalls his tears
As he regales the youth with stories
While old folk bake him their largest sweet potatoes
And sleep by the fireplace to tell him their secrets at dawn.
The stone-washed Levi’s, scuffed at the knees,
Are handed down to his cousins
(The suit and tie – he left in town.)
But his uncle holds his feathered head-dress
Which no one else dare touch.
They sought him far, his brides to be,
Many were willing, many still are.
But she knows well who holds his heart
When she hears his gentle breathing:
She knows this with or without his speaking.
Man em igat gutpela pasin
Tingting ikam long ridim 'Perfect gentleman', Dolarose Atai Wo’otong i bin raitim
Wokmak bilong em ino save bikmaus
Na bel tingting em i stap stret long ai
Em i sanap insait long em iet –strong tru– olsem ston
Na ol birua i save pinis nating tru
Long wanbel pasin bilong em tasol.
Em igat nem long hausman
Na simuk paia tingim ai wara b’long em tu
Taim em i stori wantaim ol yangpela
Ol lapun i putim traipela kaukau long as bilong paia
Na silip wetim em long liklik toktok long tulait.
Gutpela jean trasis, emi save laikim long em,
Em i givim igo long ol kasen barata
(Jaket na nektai – em lusim long taun.)
Tasol unkol i holim kastom het-bilas bilong em
We inogat wanpela man bai putim han antap.
Ol yangpela meri i save painim em
Planti ibin igat laik, planti igat laik iet.
Tasol wanpela meri i save gut tru, em holim lewa bilong man
Taim em i harim man i pulim win isi tru:
Na toktok o nagat, meri ia em i save stret.
Original poetry by Dolarose Atai Wo’otong
Quiet, but confident with his profession,
An honest expression and eyes that don’t lie,
Remains true to himself and the things for which he stands for,
Not brutal but he will prove all his enemies they are wrong without force but by solving all his problems with no violence,
Pays attention to all his family, friends, colleagues, and workers in the same building for no one is beneath his attention,
Never forgets about his tradition, heritage, identity and roots,
Never forgets about the things, struggles and people that made him who he is today,
Dressed in his best attire whether in suits and polished shoes to work or just jeans, sweater and sneakers to visit friends or in his traditional bilas to singsings
With gentle deeds, gentle smile, and gentle gesture he will make your problems melt away,
He remembers to always be a gentleman and treat all ladies with respect,
Treats his woman right, whether it’s dancing in the rain or on romantic dates and tells her she’s beautiful,
That’s my idea of a perfect gentleman.