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Athabasca University

PNG Writer

On the tenth anniversary of Independence, the Writers Union was able to obtain financing from the National Literature Board to fund a periodical, The PNG Writer, which appeared in 1985. PNG Writer was a lively journal, published twice each year. It was about 70 pages long. Most of its content was in English. It featured essays, poetry, short stories, plays, interviews, and reviews with only one or two items in Pidgin out of an average 15 items. The genres were labelled and collected in sections, except for verse, which was interspersed. Reviews and interviews were generally located at the end. An academic bias in PNG Writer was demonstrated in the proportional representation of essays and reviews -- about half of each issue. What is encouraging about PNG Writer is that these essays and reviews were by the writers themselves and about PNG literature.

One interesting aspect of the PNG Writer is its black consciousness, evident in reviews of several African and Caribbean works. This continuing "spiritual" connection between Africa and PNG literatures had survived Ulli Beier's tenure in several ways. Joseph Sukwianomb had studied and worked in Kenya for five years. Sukwianomb authored reviews of Kenyan writers Mwangi Ruheni, Maina wa Kinyatti, and Sam Kahiga and an essay on Ngugi in PNG Writer and Ondobondo. Charles Hood wrote a review of Aimé Césaire. In 1986, Ben Nakin and Steve Winduo returned from the Black Writers Conference impressed by the power of black organizations, committed to the new union, and to black control of editing and publishing.

But this black consciousness was not identical to the Black Power movement on campus a decade earlier. Rather than a political identification, it seemed directed in two ways: the first was professional achievement and acceptance for the black writer; the second was a kind of cultural affirmation. If there was a backlash in this journal, it was not anti-colonial, but directed toward the first generation of PNG writers as too elitist, too political, and not committed enough to literature. It is significant that the only older writers who contributed to PNG Writer were Vincent Eri (an essay about writing), Allan Natachee (poetry), Kumalau Tawali (poetry), and Russell Soaba (poetry). Eri and Natachee were always a-political. Tawali and Soaba were two of the most committed of PNG writers and two of the least systemically aligned.

The Writers Union was at pains to dissociate itself from what was generally understood as university writing: i.e., the Beier/Kovave school. It did this in part through forewords and editorials that sounded as though they were written for Papua New Guinea Writing. The message was populist and written in clear, simple English:

            ...there is a wealth of creative talent in this country. Let's nurture it along so that PNG literature becomes a living reality; not just something which academics talk about. The best way to do this is to join the PNG Writers Union or to set up a branch in your school, college or home district. (Mel 1985, 2)

Mel's appeal for broad participation was echoed in D'Arcy's editorial. His pitch was very reminiscent of Roger Boschman's editorials for Papua New Guinea Writing in the early 1970s. The Union was receiving manuscripts from all over the country, so many that he could not publish them as quickly as he would like; but contributors were to be patient. D'Arcy was especially clear that PNG Writer was not elitist. Although the journal was based on the UPNG campus, it was to be understood as a national magazine. The journal welcomed manuscripts from provincial writers and from women. Drama, that very political genre used by the first generation of PNG writers was not at first forthcoming, so D'Arcy had plans for including articles on playwriting. But the a-political nature of his approach was clearest in the admonition that direct "political diatribe" was boring. Criticism, he suggested, might better be directed into satire and humour. In other words, the journal was conceived as yet another entry-level populist literary magazine intended to bear the full weight of forming whatever character the national literature might come to have. PNG Writer was less naive and more self-critical than Papua New Guinea Writing, but was nevertheless

University-based Periodicals - Papua New Guinea Writer

Updated October 13 2016 by Library Services