Croc Prize 2016 – a transitional, all Papua New Guinean year


THE chair of the Crocodile Prize Board of Trustees, Emmanuel Peni (pictured), has provided a detailed and frank report about the operation of the competition in 2016, its sixth year.

Last year was a transitional year when the competition passed entirely into Papua New Guinean hands.

Mindful that the organisation of the competition required a different approach, Keith Jackson and I stepped aside but offered our assistance wherever possible.

However, apart from the odd request for particular advice or clarification, the committee decided it needed to run the gauntlet alone.

In retrospect this was probably a good decision. Experience is a great teacher and the lessons from mistakes, hiccups and even success tend to be better learnt.

An added task in this first year was the need to establish the competition as something more formal, transparent and legally constituted, given the economic and political environment in Papua New Guinea.

The contest was launched on 27 January 2016 at the National Library at Waigani with appropriate fanfare.

The Crocodile Prize was registered as an association with the Papua New Guinea Investment Promotion Authority on 7 July whereupon the voluntary organising committee became the Board of Trustees.

The board defined its role as “facilitating the creation of a space where people with artistic talents, gifts, skills, knowledge and competence could present their work and get recognition and satisfaction from being part of the evolution of the literary landscape in Papua New Guinea”.

A bank account was opened with Bank South Pacific. All the financial support from sponsors was deposited into this account.

A total of 550 entries were received in the competition from 436 entrants. Of these 226 came from females and 210 from males. This probably makes literature one of the few areas in Papua New Guinea where gender equality has been achieved.

The entries were managed by the deputy chair Joycelin Leahy, who also managed the blog and other communicaton.

In May the committee agreed that Emmanuel take over as chairperson from Baka Bina with Joycelin remaining as deputy chair. Baka stayed on the committee with two other members, Martyn Namorong and Ruth Moiam.

In September Gretel Matawan joined the group. Emmanuel noted that Gretel was “a breath of fresh air” particularly in terms of undertaking the technical and administrative tasks of the committee.

All committee meetings were carried out through email, WhatsApp and Facebook. Telephone conversations were rare.

A total of seven sponsors stepped forward to support the completion: Kina Securities K10,000; Minerals Resources Development Corporation K5,000; Kumul Petroleum Holdings K5,000; Paga Hill Development Company K5,000; Abt JTA-PGF K5,000; Cleland Family K5,000; PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum K5,000.

SP Brewery agreed to contribute K10,000 but rescinded for reasons unknown. Together with the prize money the total budget of the 2016 competition was K46,286.44.

The PNG government set aside a week in August to promote books through National Book Week, which is usually an important week for educational institutions in PNG. It was also significant for the Crocodile Prize. The board of trustees participated in the event with the Ward Strip Demonstration School in Port Moresby.

More than 400 Grade 7 and 8 students listened to Emmanuel, who spoke about the need for them to participate in the Crocodile Prize and add to their learning. Baka Bina talked about the importance of capturing stories while Ben Packham, representing the sponsor of the emerging writers prize, Abt Associates, spoke about the importance of education, writing and reading.

The scheduled writers workshop was convened at the INA Conference room at IPA Haus, Port Moresby on 8 December 2016. Dr Anna Joskin, Russell Soaba and McPolly Koima were an excellent combination of presenters.

The workshop attendees comprised 11 females and 15 males, seven below the age of 20 with the youngest being 13 years old and the oldest 65. Everyone came away excited and motivated. The young professionals, who attended, mainly from the information and communications industry, were attentive and contributed constructively to discussions.

Mr Soaba stressed character development and narrative. The participants agreed with him that the first person voice was usually the easiest to write.

Dr Joskin focussed on the nuances of grammar that are significant in defining the quality of writing and illustrated some common errors made by those for whom English is not their mother tongue. She also gave some essential pointers on how to organise a good piece of writing.

Mr McPolly Koima was very thorough in the area of character development, scene development and expressions using specific rules and formats for writing a script. He gave simple and illustrative examples of his work. His practical presentations were easy to comprehend.

There were several interesting questions from participants. Two that stood out were: “It is very difficult to formulate a title for a piece of writing. How can you write a title”? There were many suggestions and knowledge shared as a response. The most succinct was from Alexander Nana, a participant. He said, “Let the story give you the title”.

The Australian High Commission and the Crocodile Prize Organizing Committee were pleased to invite winners of the prize, the sponsors, families and supporters of literature in PNG to the awards ceremony on 16 February 2017 at the Australian High Commission. A total of about 70 people attended the reception.

One of the esteemed judges, Dr Anna Joskin, was guest speaker. Deputy High Commissioner, Ms Bronte Moules, also spoke. Baka addressed the invitees of the event while Martyn was master of the ceremonies.

The event would not have been such a success if it were not for the efforts of Gretel Matawan, who made sure all the details were taken care off.

The event was also a success because several of the sponsors committed to continue to support the prize while five new sponsors raised their hands. Two of these stepped forward and introduced the categories which they will fund. These were a script writing category to be sponsored by Port Moresby Arts Theatre while the 2017 Facebook challenge category will be sponsored by the Haltmeier Family.

The Prizes were awarded to seven winners:

Kina Securities Poetry Award – Wardley Barry for ‘Paradigmania’

Kumul Petroleum Limited Holdings Short Story Award – Alison Kult for ‘A Morning to Remember’

Cleland Family Heritage Writing Award – Tess Gazoria for ‘Ketar Natis, Killings and Two Grieving Kinsmen’

Paga Hill Development Company Writing for Children Award – Marycathrene Tavore for ‘The King of the Jungle’

PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum Award for Essays and Journalism – John Kamasua for ‘Ah PNG, the way we are’

Minerals Resources Development Corporations Women in Writing Award – Roslyn Tony for several of her entries and her work with the Simbu Writer’s Association

Abt Associates Emerging Young Writer Award – Peter Jokisie for several entries. Peter’s writing was noted as being “fresh and bordering on the unconventional”

As noted, the 2016 Crocodile Prize was a transitional year. In his report, Emmanuel observes that running a writing competition has its own challenges, many of them out of the ordinary. In 2016 this was complicated by it being a intermediate year where new arrangements had to be established.

As a result the process experienced by the board of trustees was an adventure up a steep learning curve. It is to their credit that they reached the summit.

Along the way the committee learned an enormous amount which should make subsequent years easier.

The task now is to maintain the momentum they have created.

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