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Athabasca University


Bikmaus (1980-87), published by the Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies (IPNGS), represented an amalgamation of PNGW and Gigibori. Its first editor, John Kasaipwalova wrote: "Our hope is that Bikmaus will become a forum for the dissemination of information and the intelligent debate of controversial issues" 1. It was to be literally a "big mouth," a shout or a yell. It might even become impudent or saucy. As a forum for intellectual debate Bikmaus was the most interesting periodical of its time. It carried a generically undifferentiated mix of creative literature, poetry, art, folklore, anthropological study, history, film and book reviews, and critical essays in about 100 pages. Most of its writers were Literature Competition winners. Its editorial board was drawn originally from the last days of PNGW: Jack Lahui and John Kolia were on the Board. In 1982, when Andrew Strathern took over as director of IPNGS, the Board was expanded to include Strathern and another Literature Bureau writer, Rex Okona, as well as Kathy Kituai. In 1984, PNG playwright, Nora Vagi Brash, was added, along with UPNG lecturer Kalyan Chatterjee.

Under Strathern's editorship, Bikmaus increased its frequency to four times each year and kept up steady publication until issue 7.4 (1987), when it lapsed. Remnants of the political 1970s float through the pages of Bikmaus. For instance, most of Joseph Sukwianomb's African literature reviews appear here. But for the most part, the entries are balanced between the reflective and the forward-looking. Essays like "Indigenizing Christian Worship in Melanesia," "Christians in the Trans-Gogol and the Madang Province," and the "Myth of the Noble Anthropologist," examine the effects of colonialism as well as the process of decolonization. Other essays, like "The Need for Indigenization of Social Sciences," "An Example of Pacific Micro-Nationalism," and "The Protection of National Cultural Property," address contemporary issues. 

With the imminent departure of Andrew Strathern in 1986, Bikmaus became significantly more literary in its content. In fact, in its last issues, creative writing appeared to the exclusion of all else. The journal was effectively serving as the only alternative to the university-based Writers Union journal, PNG Writer. As Ondobondo ran out of funds and the PNG Writer came unstuck, Bikmaus was taking on the role of a national literary journal. In fact, its essays stand as the most coherent block of criticism for PNG literature from this period.

i. Jack Lahui has told me that the articles in 7.4 (1987) are on the subject of copyright. The issue has been ready for press for some years. He still hopes to publish it, even though the journal replacing Bikmaus (which may be called Timeline) is due for release (Interview 1993).

Updated October 13 2016 by Library Services