Art & song forge closer bonds between Australia & PNG
Former BCL managing director Paul Quodling dies

Yokomo may ride again in the virtual world of the 21st century

Yokomo & the Beatles  June 1967
Yokomo & Omokoy meet the Beatles, PNG School Paper, June 1967


You can visit the Library for All website here

NOOSA – A Papua New Guinean schoolkids literary hero may make a return after 50 years if an organisation dedicated to making books accessible to everyone has its way.

Library for All, a non-profit organisation operating in Cambodia, Mongolia, Rwanda, Congo and Haiti, funded by World Vision and other agencies, is keen on including the fictional character Yokomo in a suite of offerings now being developed for Papua New Guinea.

Yokomo, a clownish figure who always seemed to triumph despite the odds, proved to be a big hit with school students and is still recalled with affection and humour.

He first appeared in the PNG School Papers for upper primary students more than half a century ago and later became a character in radio broadcasts produced by the PNG service of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Yokomo Cover November 1967
Cover of the November 1967 issue

Yokomo was the brainchild of the editor of the school papers Frank Hiob and I continued the popular stories (giving him a dog, Omokoy) when I took over as editor in 1966 and Ed Brumby, who succeeded me in 1968, kept the character going.

The stories were illustrated at various times by John Lucas, Hal Holman and Alan Lucas (no relation).

“I was at a planning meeting in Port Moresby a few weeks ago with about 20 Papua New Guineans and was trying to explain the library,” said Simon Ellis, PNG country program manager of Library For All.

“I suggested it would be nice to have in the collection some material that was familiar and beloved by generations. I mentioned the names Yokomo and Raka and Ranu and there was immediate smiling and nodding all around the room.”

“So, if you don't already realise it, what you created was extremely popular and still resonates today.”

Library for All is building a cloud-based library filled with locally relevant e-books curated for different regions in the developing world as a more cost-effective and sustainable alternative to building physical libraries.

The PNG initiative is scheduled to kick off by June next year.

The content for the virtual library comes from a range of sources including major international publishers, local publishers, NGOs, governments and open educational resources.

Library For All does not provide hardware to schools but it identifies devices that exist in-country and customises its platform accordingly.

Simon Ellis responded positively to my suggestion that new episodes in the adventures of Yokomo and his trusty dog Omokoy could be written for the 21st century. 

Yokomo letter  February 1967
February 1967

“We plan to host some writers' workshops over coming months,” he said, “and it could be fun and interesting to think of new situations for the dynamic duo and keep the culture alive in current day PNG – ‘Yokomo Meets a Mobile Phone?’ or ‘Yokomo Tries to Get a Game with the Hunters?’

“Part of the literacy learning side of putting this collection of stories together is to encourage families to read together and I can see older generations enjoying sharing these stories with the younger ones and explaining how things were, back then,” he said.

“We'll see how we can add some Yokomo stories aimed at elementary levels and have the series spanning the elementary to primary years.”


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Salvator Tonou Brere

I support the idea. Today's version of Yokomo.

Daniel Kumbon

Yokomo will indeed make a big hit among all age groups.

I still remember Yokomo, Raka & Ranu, Tabu & Noka, Malot the driver, Peter & Kinabo etc. as well as some popular radio programs like 'What Can They Do?' and all the choice of music that went with the broadcasts.

You are not wrong Murray Bladwell. I am one of those kids you guys taught 50 years ago and now the grandfather of eight grandchildren. The last one arrived on 15 September this year, the eve of PNG's 42nd Independence Day celebrations.

It was a privilege to meet Keith and Ed Brumby in Brisbane last year, two of the men responsible for those memorable school broadcasts.

Simon Ellis

Keith - great Yokomo article! Hope it generates some interest and excitement. Thanks very much.

Murray Bladwell

What a fantastic idea! Yokomo and Omokoy were much loved characters enjoyed by primary school students throughout PNG in the late 1960's and early 70's.

I know the kids in my schools at Kundiawa (Gon) and Chuave grabbed copies of the School Paper with enthusiasm and went straight to the the latest adventures of Yokomo.

Later, when Yokomo and friends became a regular feature on school broadcasts (thanks to Keith as producer) the kids were keen to listen attentively, as Yokomo now had a voice and a personality.

There was much laughter as he got himself into all sorts of difficult situations. Yokomo clearly connected to the kids funnybone and learning became fun.

It is hard to believe that the kids we taught over 50 years ago are now grandparents. I'm sure their happy memories of Yokomo will encourage them to ensure their grandchildren have the same reading enjoyment when he reappears on the literary scene.

Keith, I wonder if all the old Yokomo stories from the original school papers and radio scripts could be reproduced (subject to copyright) in book form.

This could be a best seller given the strong connection to the older PNG population. It would also be a great way to reintroduce Yokomo to a modern day audience who will meet him for the first time through this new exciting project.

Yokomo for Prime Minister!

Unfortunately those publications, recordings and scripts were not retained. Ed Brumby and I have some of our own which we are making available to Library for All, which may also commission some new, up-to-date Yokomo material - KJ

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