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PNG writers spectacular international debut at Brisbane festival

Part of the audience at the PNG writers sessionKEITH JACKSON

AT THE Brisbane Writers Festival yesterday, before an audience of over 50 people including Papua New Guinea’s consul-general Maggie Moi-he, four of PNG’s top writers showed they were not only giants of the keyboard but splendid performers on the international stage.

As representatives of their country and interpreters of Melanesian literary expression, Francis Nii, Martyn Namorong, Rashmii Amoah Bell and Daniel Kumbon - with style, intellect and charisma - put in a superb performance at the first ever PNG presentation at an Australian literary festival.

The event culminated an especially big week for wheelchair-bound Nii, who departs Brisbane this morning on his home journey, while Namorong and Kumbon move to Sydney to fulfill official engagements with two leading Australian writers' organisations and a special PNG lunch to mark the anniversary of independence.

Toowong Rotary members Eddie Berkowitz, Ted Horsburgh and Murray Bladwell with Francis NiiAs well as impressing Australians with a sharp mind and quiet humour – “my legs might not function but [tapping his head] this is where it happens” – Nii’s consistent determination to master his disability found many allies.

These included Murray Bladwell and members of the Toowong Rotary Club who invited him to Rotary’s Donations-in-Kind warehouse in Brisbane.

There Nii was surprised and delighted to receive a new collapsible wheelchair (to add to the lightweight conveyance bought for him by PNG Attitude readers a few years back) and a notebook PC to replace one stolen some months ago. In this photo you see him in the workshop with Rotarians Eddie Berkowitz, Ted Horsburgh and Murray Bladwell.

The PNG session at the festival took the form of a panel discussion, but - after a recognition of traditional Australian indigenous landowners by Namorong - began with a first class exposition by Nii of the establishment, growth and challenges facing the Simbu Writers Association.

While focusing on a single province, Nii’s presentation effectively revealed the broader problems confronting PNG writing – particularly the failure of institutional backing to emerge, Nii holding both government and aid sectors responsible.

Daniel & Francis' books were popular after the eventIn one of his comments, Kumbon brilliantly highlighted another major issue – with authors now recognised and rewarded and books being published there are still major difficulties in getting them to readers.

“It’s like cooking a meal without eating it,” Kumbon exclaimed.

The panel discussion, smoothly anchored by a skilled Martyn Namorong, covered many topics ranging from gender issues, domestic violence, social justice and equality, land alienation, the cultural values that drive Melanesian writers and book marketing.

The second half of the program was devoted to audience questions which included Nii being asked to read one of his poems – which he did with flair and emotional power.

The absorbing hour was capped off with a short statement by consul-general Moi-he who expressed her own great enthusiasm for boosting PNG literature and indicated that this would be translated into greater government interest in future.

Moi-he, a long term senior PNG foreign affairs official, will be ending her term in Queensland at the end of this year and is expected to return to Waigani to be responsible for PNG-Australia relations.

She presented Namorong with an elegant PNG tie, about which he commented: "That moment you receive an official PNG government tie you know you are no longer an individual but a representative of your country." 

As the audience left the auditorium, very satisfied with what they had seen and heard, they crowded around a table where Nii and Kumbon were signing and selling their books.

Rashmii & Keith meet for the first timeBell tweeted after the session, “Awesome week spent with my writing family @PNGAttitude, @Mangiwantok, @bjackson_comms. Great bunch who share my love of PNG and literature.”

It was an accurate, pithy comment from this delightful and perceptive writer. The photo at left shows us at our first meeting after a long email correspondence.

It should be recorded that this historic trip could not have taken place without the support of Gummi Fridriksson of the Paga Hll Development Company and Prof Ken McKinnon.

Jointly they provided the critical funds and personal support required to get this exciting project off the ground. Now to start planning for 2017.


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Daniel Kumbon

The PNG writers Australian tour ended yesterday (13 September) after a memorable visit to the New South Wales Writers Centre in Sydney.

I was envious to find that the centre receives good support from all three tiers of governments - federal, state and local.

There are writers centres in all states of Australia. No wonder Australian authors publish over 28,000 new books every year and growing.

Julie and I will depart Sydney today for Brisbane from where we will hop on the Greyhound to Cairns. Martyn flies home via Brisbane and Cairns. And Ben flies direct to Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coadt.

What a fun-filled two weeks it has been among generous, open, kind-hearted Australians.

Thanks to Paga Hill Development Company, PNG Attitude and Professor Ken McKinnon for their kind support and all the good people we met from Noosa all the way to Sydney.

It's been an eye opener and educational trip for me. Thanks again for giving me the opportunity.

Paul Waugla Wii

Thank you Francis for your presentation at the BWF on our fledgling, cash-strapped and much-overlooked Simbu Writers Association.

It is time for the politicians to provide the impetus for the growth and development of writers and literary talent in PNG.

Last but not the least, I wholeheartedly convey my sincere gratitude to Murray Bladwell and the good-hearted Rotarians at the Toowong Rotary Club for your kind donation of a collapsible wheelchair to our wheelchair-bound writer.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I've been talking to Wendy O'Hanlon from the Sunshine Coast Writer's Festival held in Coolum at about the same time as the Brisbane Writer's Festival. Next year it may be possible to attend both festivals.

The Sunshine Coast Writer's Festival has a distinctly regional flavour with writers coming not only from Australia but from places like Indonesia, Aboriginal Australia and so on. It would be a natural fit for PNG Writers and maybe an easier venue for expatriate PNGs living in Oz to attend.

Baka and Manu unfortunately missed a great opportunity.

Daniel Kumbon

Thank you Arnold, you also write well and won a Crocodile Prize Award before me. And published two books. I think you should reconsider publishing them with Createspace.

And Phil, I asked Baka Bina to bring copies of his novel 'Man of Calibre' and Emmanuel Peni's 'Sibona' so I could display them at the Brisbane Writers Festival but they did not provide me with any copies.

What a chance it would have been to showcase them - our first three full length novels including of course Francis Nii's 'Fitman, Raitman and Cooks' which sold well.

Let's all plan something big for 2017. I intend to bring one or two members of the Enga Writers Association to Brisbane.

Arnold Mundua

Bernard...Daniel Kumbon is one guy whose writings I admire. He presented me with a copy of Remember Me. I have yet to pick up a copy of his latest book.

Philip Fitzpatrick

There's a whole lot more where that came from Bernard - check out the Pukpuk Publications website.

Get a copy of Baka Bina's highlands book and read Emmanuel Peni's 'Sibona' for a real treat.

Bernard Corden

Daniel Kumbon's Remember Me compilation has had me thinking all day long and the eloquent prose in many of the stories is reminiscent of Albert Camus or Guy de Maupassant.

Bernard Corden

I have just finished reading Remember Me - and other stories from Enga Province PNG, compiled by Daniel Kumbon, which I picked up at the BWF 2016. It had me captivated from the opening Remember Me to the poem by Abby Yadi - An Engan to Stand.

I especially enjoyed Nendipilya the Orphan by Robert Kia and Serena by Nancy Ambis Waim. Such beautiful, simple and descriptive writing.

Corney Korokan Alone

You all are doing beloved Papua New Guinea proud.

Remember, you are citizens first before your role as literary artist ambassadors.

The friends of Papua New Guinea and sponsors of this undertaking deserve our heart-felt appreciation and thanks.

Our walk in the literature universe is just starting.
Keep the faith.

Philip Kai Morre

congratulations and well-done. you made us proud. May God bless you all for this wonderful gifts of writing talents.

Diane Bohlen

Well done all those who made this possible. Ken Mckinnon rings a bell.

A big bell Diane. He was director of education when we young teachers in TPNG - KJ

Garry Roche

Congratulations to all. I hope we can encourage more PNG writers to take up the pen and write.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Look at that third photograph down.

There are Daniel and Francis signing copies of their own books in front of an appreciative crowd.

There is cash on the table.

It is a scene that needs to be replicated in Papua New Guinea.

I wonder if any of our wonderful sponsors would help with that next step?

Rashmii Bell

Congratulations and massive thanks to the PNG Attitude family, Paga Hill Development Company and Professor McKinnon for this incredible opportunity. It was terrific week of meeting, learning and sharing during BWF2016. An important moment to present four Papua New Guinean's perspectives to the world of literature.

The Panel session event itself was a great experience; thank you to Daniel, Martyn and Franics who I was so happy to finally meet and spend time with. Special thanks to Ben Jackson who was super efficient in leading, organising and calming nerves in the lead up to the session. Thank you to all who attended to listen and ask questions, particualrly Mrs Maggie Moihe. Thanks to all the Papua New Guinean supporters on Twitter.

Bob Clelland, Murray Bladwell, Rob Parer - thanks gentlemen for the fabulous Brisbane functions. Also special mention of Phil Fitzpatrick/Pukpuk Publications to arrange for Ed Brumby and I to meet. Ed has been wonderful in agreeing to be a mentor/critical friend for a book project that I am working on.

Thank you all🌺

Michael Dom

Well done!

Thank you team for splendidly representing PNG writers.

Thanks PHDC and Prof McKinnon for the financial support and Keith et al in Brisbane for your logistical and social arrangements.

Baka Bina

Well done to all who contributed to this extraordinary events.

Bernard Corden

It was refreshening to listen to a group of articulate professionals and I did not hear anyone utter the meaningless phrases "kind of", "kinda" or "guys", which often litter interviews with Australian media tarts.
Good writers never waste words.

`Robin Lillicrapp

Well done Writers and Organisers and Rotarians. A magnificent effort with long term achievements in the wind.

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