Recent News

2017 Competition Report

Compiled by Gretel Matawan and Emmanuel Peni

This is an account of the 2017 Crocodile Prize Competition

The Voluntary Organising Committee (VOC) of the Annual 2017 Crocodile Prize Literature Competition in PNG is happy to announce that a successful year of literature competition has come to a close. We would like to thank all the sponsors and the public who have sincerely supported this competition.

There have been several queries on when the winners will be announced. The VOC is excited too to know about the winners.  However, the winners will have to be administered through a lengthy process of judging and selection.  Our Volunteers have put together the folders (9 altogether) of the entries. Below is the summary of the entrants and the entries for this year.

This is the 7th year of the Annual Literature Prize.  This year the VOC received 245 entries from 87 Papua New Guinean writers and artists.

The Table 1.0 shows that the majority of the writers are from NCD. The VOC did its best to use several media platforms to reach every PNG citizens.  It is unfortunate that very few entries are coming in from outside of NCD.  The Committee is looking at accepting written pieces on paper from remote places in 2018.  Otherwise, the VOC will do its best to reach out to the people of PNG in 2018. Hopefully we get some entries from even those provinces not listed here:  West Sepik, Southern Highlands, Hela, Western Highlands, New Ireland, Central and other PNG citizens living abroad. We have an entry from Fiji.  We can confirm that it is from a Papua New Guinean citizen.  We would like to also report that the entries from Gulf Province were from Kikori secondary schools after a visit by a member of the VOC in 2017.   Our publicity and communications team have learnt a lot in promoting writing in the last two years of work in PNG. Literature spaces and activities in PNG have declined to a state of irrelevance.  This is a tragic and frightening trend when considering Google and fb and Alibaba and more are fighting and in the process spending billions to get information from people around the world. When will Papua New Guineans wake up and write our own history, experiences and our aspirations?  Why do we let outsiders do it from their reference point and own our stories?

Table 1.0 shows the Provinces and the number of writers/artists who have sent in their literary piece(s).

Provinces (Areas) Number of Entrants
AROB 3
East New Britain 3
East Sepik 3
Eastern Highlands 4
Fiji 1
Gulf 3
Jiwaka 2
Madang 2
Manus 3
Milne Bay 2
Morobe 5
Mt Hagen 1
NCD 46
No Response 2
Oro 1
Central 1
Simbu 1
West New Britain 3
Western 1
Grand Total 87

 

There are 8 categories showing here in which entries have been received for. Of these entries two other category winners will be selected from.  These are: Emerging Young writer and Women in Writing.  The figures in the table clearly show that poetry is the most preferred literary piece to be written and sent in at 53% of the total. It is exciting to see that short stories went over half a century.  The VOC will work hard to help the writers/artists of PNG write or illustrate more our experiences, past and our dreams. It is unfortunate that Heritage writing continue to register low levels of entries. One can easily imagine anyone telling a tumbuna story (we have thousands) or describe a cultural experience.

Writing for children is one category; the Crocodile Prize is going to promote more in the next couple of months. We are interested to have more stories for our children so they become readers of our own journey.    

VOC will be more available for Essay and Journalism category next year after the Crocodile Prize blog has been upgraded to Premium.     There will be more interaction and discussions on the entry pieces sent in.

Table 2.0 shows the number of entries received for the categories in which prizes were secured for 2017.

The 2017 Categories Number of Entries
Short Play 3
Essays and Journalism 26
FB & NBC Radio Comp 4
Heritage Writing 14
Illustrations 3
Poetry 130
Short Stories 52
Writing for Children 13
Total 245

It is exciting to see that the 60% of the entries came from the economically active population of ages between 21 – 40 years (refer to Pie chart 1.0 below). It is unfortunate that the older population who would have had many experiences and culturally more rooted sent in less this year.  It is presumed that those who have resigned or have their careers stalling (11% of the total entries) would find passion somewhere else and writing and illustrating could have been a healthier, productive and meaningful diversion.

Chart 1.0 also gives a good indication on the members of the writing societies whom the VOC will target next year to promote, guide and support and engage in the literature competition. Even if they do not want to participate, their entries or submission can be used to add to the body of knowledge captured for generations to use to understand the evolution of the PNG cultural heritage.    
Where to from here:

The process of identifying the winners will take two months. Firstly, the folders will be sent to those who will cull (select what can be judged) from whatever numbers down to 10 entries. The 10 entries will then be sent to the judges who will then select only the top 5 entries. The top 5 entries will lastly be sent to the sponsors who select the winner.  We will announce the 5 shortlist at the end of January 2018. The winners will be announced at a Ceremony at the Grand Papua Hotel on the 10th February 2018.  There will be an official gathering where the 2018 Crocodile Prize Competition will also be launched.  Stay tuned for the announcements and the winners and the launching.

A burning question to discuss is the participation of women in PNG. Both 2016 and 2017, (under the leadership of Papua New Guineans) have proven beyond doubt the participation of women in writing has gained its foot hold.  There are more women sending in entries (55 %) than men folks.  The quality and diversity of the entries far outweigh that of men. Women were the youngest of the entrants and the oldest. Last year’s winner of the Paga Hill Foundation Writing for Children Category was a 14 year old girl from Bougainville.   Females were more active in asking for information and following the rules and guidelines.  The tides have turned and so there must be a category for Boys in writing and Men in writing.

The only issue encountered by the administrative team of the VOC was the lack of respect to the rules and procedures. One of the entrants sent in 23 entries altogether. Clearly this person did ignore the rules or did not bother to ask for clarification.  Others continue to send in entries without the entry forms.  This may sound like hard work to you as an entrant, but technology has made it so easy. One can literally take a snap shot of the entry from and inbox this through fb messenger or email it in picture format.

The VOC takes pride in our work in one tiny area of literature in PNG. What we are especially proud about is our process on identifying the winner.  Our selection and judging process is very stringent. We want to instil integrity into the processes and give an opportunity for the public, sponsors, supporters and participants to believe that we have been transparent and accountable. We want to show and prove that we can be objective and manage wantok system, nepotism and any other possible foul play or conflict of interest.

Otherwise the VOC are privileged to be given the opportunity to lead the Crocodile Prize. The VOC would like to congratulate everyone on their efforts and wish everyone a success in their different endeavours.

 Our Sponsors:

Sponsors Category
Port Moresby Arts Theatre Best Short Play
PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum Essays and Journalism
Haltmeier Family FB & NBC Radio Comp
Cleland family Heritage Writing
Yet to Announce Illustrations
Kina Securities Poetry
Kumul Petroleum Holdings Limited Short Stories
Mineral Resources Development Corporations Women in Writing
Library for all, Australia Writing for Children

 

The Interim Working Committee

Chairman: Emmanuel Peni, (Author, Director – People Centred OD Consult)

Deputy Chair: Joycelin Leahy (Blogger and Author, operating out of Brisbane, Australia)

Other member of the working Committee:

Ruth Moiam, Consultant (World Bank Communications)

Martyn Namorong, (Blogger, National Coordinator – EITI)

Baka Bina, (Supreme Courts – Human Resources)

Gretel Matawan, (Communications, Institute of National Affairs)

 

Apologies for Silence

Message from the 2017 Volunteer Organising Committee of the Crocodile Prize

Dear everyone

The Volunteer Organising Committee would like to sincerely apologise for the silence we have given to all.

Our Volunteers are putting together the folders (10 altogether) of the entries, and are summarizing all the entries so we can have a comprehensive response as a report to you all.

The folders will go to those who will cull ( select what can be judged) from what ever numbers down to 10 entries. The 10 finalists entries will then be sent to the judges who will select only 5 entries. The 5 entries will go to the sponsors so that the winner can be selected from.

Our selection and judging process is very stringent. We want to instill integrity into the processes and give an opportunity for the public, sponsors, supporters and participants to believe that we have been transparent and accountable. We want to show and prove that we can be objective and manage wantok system, nepotism and any other possible foul play or conflict of interest.

Please bear with us.

We will also publish all the names of all those who sent in entries in the Post Courier next Friday – so look out. On Friday we will also have decisions: on when the finalists will be announced, when the Prize Giving Ceremony will take place and other important information. We will publish these on the news paper too. We initially planned on announcing the winners in December 2017. But this is not feasible anymore. we appologise too for this.

Thank you for your understanding.

We apologise again for the delayed announcement.

Yours sincerely

2017 Volunteer Organising Committee

2017 Competition Closed

The 2017 Crocodile Prize Literary Competition is Closed.

Message from the Voluntary Organizing Committee of the 2017 Crocodile Prize Competition. 

The entry of literary Pieces for the 2017 Crocodile Prize has come to a close for the year.  The Members of the Voluntary Organizing Committee have had an interesting year.  2017 has been the year of creating more awareness.  It is still evident that a lot more awareness and incentives are needed to increase the number of entries and the quality of entries.  8 million people of PNG were given an opportunity to enter the competition and only less than a thousand entries from less than 300 aspiring writers and artists were able to send in their entries.  This speaks volume in terms of the need for more work in the area of writing and art.

Given our own contextual limitations, the organizing committee is extremely proud to say this year has been a year of awakening the Spirit of Papua New Guineans to really take ownership of the Competition.  This year the Prize has been solely organized by Papua New Guineans who are passionate and committed and are nationalistic.

The most exciting aspect from the experience of the 2017 Competition was seeing the growing interest in Literature in ALL Papua New Guineans of ALL ages. We understand that there are few challenges for those that do not have access to internet or laptops. We have taken that into consideration and we will in the next competition, make it more accessible as well as to create more awareness to include more rural schools as well as the general public.

Compared to the past, entries are coming from diverse communities and geographical areas of different levels of socio economic and educational spread.  Compared to the past we have newer aspiring writers who have never published or written something for public consumptions. Entries from Remote Kikori in the Gulf Province, from Manus Islands and from remote and rural satellite hamlets outside of Port Moresby has been a success for the Organizing Committee.

The Organizing committee has spent significant effort in Publicizing and creation of awareness.  The effort is significant because of the nature of their contribution which is Voluntary.

The Interest and the gratefulness from those who entered their work have been overwhelming. This has given the committee more motivation to ensure that such a space is continuously made available, resourced and added effort is given by the Voluntary Organizing Committee to sustain it.

The Organizing Committee is happy to announce that the winners of the prizes will be announced on the 15th December in a Ceremony organized in Port Moresby (Exact Venue to be announced at a later date).

We would like to thank all the Sponsors:  Mineral Resources Development Company (MRDC) sponsored K10,000 for the Women in Writing in Category; Cleland Family sponsored K10, 000 for the Heritage Writing Category; Kumul Petroleum Holdings Limited (KPHL) sponsored K10,000 for the Poetry Category; PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum sponsored K10, 000 for the Essays and Journalism Category; Kina Securities Limited sponsored K2, 000 for the Poetry Category; Moresby Arts Theatre for sponsoring Script/ Best Short Play Category; Library 4 All/World Vision for sponsoring the Writing for Children Category, Haltmeier Family for sponsoring the Facebook & NBC Radio Competition and Bank South Pacific (BSP) for sponsored K5, 000 for the paid advertisements and printing of anthologies

We would like to thank the people of PNG, especially those who have participated, those who have helped in advancing the awareness, those who have inspired and helped others to explore their talent and gifts.

The members of the Voluntary Organizing Committee are:  Baka Bina, Gretel Matawan, Ruth Moiam, Martyn Namorong and Emmanuel Peni. The Committee would like to thank other supporters who continue to be critical of the work and the entries.  The Judges will not be named here for independence and objectivity but an acknowledgement is necessary. Also, acknowledge the efforts of the editors: Rosa Koian, Anna Joskin PhD, Russel Soaba and Joycelin Leahy.

We would like to thank all Media outlet who have provided a stage for the competition to be broadcasted.  EMTV, NBC TV, NBC Radio, Post Courier, National, Yumi FM, FM central, The Sunday Chronicle and TV wan.  Acknowledge the efforts by many different administrators of Facebook Pages such as:  Sepik Writers Associations, PNG Book Blub, PNG Writers, Editors and Publishers, and many other Facebook users who help post or share our articles and posts.

Thank you all for this year of art and writing for the truly National Literature Competition called the Crocodile Prize Competition.

The Day I saw my Name

Edited for the Blog and Anthology from an entry for the 2017 Crocodile Prize Kumul Petroleum Holdings Limited, Short Story Category by JIMMY AWAGL.  Jimmy is from Simbu. He is a teacher. He has been writing since 2014.  He has published 4 books.  He is working on his 5th book.

Kundiawa, usually known as Four Corner Town, baked under the hot sun is usual at this time of the year. Accept for the odd rain here or there, the streets are dry and dusty and the air is hot most days.  I covered my naturally blonde hair and fair skin beneath an old rainbow umbrella as I strode towards the post office. People say the Highlands region is cold but it seems unusual that Simbu gets to be hotter and the chance of being sun burnt is higher.

 I walked past several shops, many people and off course the street sellers who align the street neatly, sometime on the foot path.  The street sellers are usually very scrutinising in their regard of the passerby’s as they sit and wait to make a sale.  I had my head bowed, concentrated on the track and walked as swiftly as I could.  I felt eyes scorching into my back, my bilum and my neck. Many eyes but one in particular was piercing.  I glanced back to register the one with the piercing look.  He was from a tribe called Dom who populates the mountains just behind the green from the Mount Wilhelm Hotel.  This guy had an unassuming look, his beard covered his face but his eyes were like a baby horse’s but with a laser like look.  I noticed a brutish kind of beauty in his demeanour.  He was not ugly or handsome, just had an unusual presence.  He continued his stare, more at my behind. I continued my walk with a smile, thinking about his eyes, those piercing eyes.

 I put my hand into my bilum, pulled out my cell phone and rang a number.  ‘Hello, how are you?’  said my dad.  ‘Hey cute eyes, how long are you going to stare at me’, I replied with a giggle.  ‘Hey! it’s me, who do you think you are talking to’, screamed my dad.   ‘Daddy, Oh God no, I am so sorry dad, someone was staring at me, I’m on my way to the education office’, I replied, blushing and embarrassed. ‘Are you alone? For what?’ asked dad sharply with uneasiness. ‘My classmates told me the selection lists for Grade 11s intake for this year were posted on the notice board. I was in a rush and so I didn’t arrange for someone to accompany me.’ I am sorry too, I know you always remind me to be safe, I said’.  ‘Oh, you’re on a mission, a good one, I see. Do let me know the outcome,’ he replied.  ‘And please try finding someone in town, a relative to walk with’, he said as softly as he could.  He was embarrassed about my earlier response and I was too.  It was an awkward moment! I reached the corner of Wara Market, a famous spot for lovers to hang out in the heart of the Four Corner Town, before making a left turn to the education office.

There were students, parents, friends and relatives flooding the street leading to the education office.  The crowd made me anxious but excited.  There was another larger crowd encircling the notice board in which the lists showing the Grade 11 students who have been selected was posted.  I noticed beads of sweat on my forehead and noticed that I was nervous and excited.  I did not even realise I was pushing through the crowd to get a closer look at the listed names.

I struggled and directed my focus through the bobbed heads to read the list for Yauwe Moses Secondary School.  I read through the list more than 3 times and still could not see my name.  I then realised that my heart beat a little faster than normal and my feet were a bit afraid to move.  I pushed myself and my body to move to the list for Mt Wilhelm Secondary School. This list did not contain my name. I was almost reduced to tears. I fought back the tears and looked on yearning to the other lists.

For the first time I noticed other people around me.  I looked into their faces hoping to share my urgent feeling of anxiety and apprehension.  Some of the students whose names appeared on the list were excited and their faces glowed.  These faces did not help me deal with my feelings. The other lot who were unsuccessful were upset and their faces dull as ashes that have been washed away from the fireplace.  I found common ground with this lot but still the intensity of my fear was gripping my throat.

I went through a list on the other side of the wall. ‘Muaina Secondary School.’ As I scanned, I saw the names of my classmates. I felt a sudden drop in the intensity of fear in my throat, my heart and my belly.  I felt just a tiny bit easy and was at ease and thought that soon my eyes would catch my name. And and and and ……………………………..then………….. there it was, neatly and boldly written down.  Just like I thought it should be. I imagined that my name was in golden letters and there was no name as beautiful as my name.  I had my eyes fixed on that name for a while.  It was not a penetrating or piercing look like the one I got from that beautiful street seller guy.  My eyes loved the letters that made that name on the list.  I wanted to tear the list down, take it home and put it near all my other things I have collected over the years. All these collections made an interesting shrine.  I see that list as a centre piece of my shrine.

There it was my name together with my dad’s name.  For a moment I had another anxiety attack. ‘Was it really my name?  Was it spelt correctly?  Was that really my father’s name?’  I rubbed my eyes as if I had miserable eye sight or just woke up and cleared my eye wax to see the sunlight of the day. For the one hundredth time I directed my eyes to the list again. It was my name, not someone else’s. It was my name on that list on this day, today.

My emotions had taken such a toll on me that I forgot to be happy: to do a little dance or to squeal or jump.  I had a pounding heart, which was the only thing that reminded me of my happiness.

I walked away from the crowd almost a bit too fast, pulled out my cell phone and dialled my dad. I screamed into the phone, in tears, happy tears saying things I do not remember. I must have told him that I loved him, I must have thanked him for his love a million times over and informed him between sobs that I was selected to do Grade 11 at Muaina.

“You made me proud. You have been my super girl and now a superwoman. We will celebrate at home. Take a ride home now,” he sang.  He literally sang to me.

I walked to Wara Market and bought a betelnut. I have never chewed betelnut before. I do not know how to chew, but I bought it anyway, and set about the task. I chewed the buai without the proper calculation of the amount of mustard and lime.  I was instantly hit by sweat running like a stream all over my body. My eyes turned blurry and I walked like a drunkard towards a stone wall. I vomited the stuff near a public rubbish bin and leaned against the wall for some time. I regained my consciousness but soon realised that all my feelings were gone.  I just felt really tired.  I boarded a JM Back bus and rode home with the great news.

Raiders of the night moon

Baka B. Bina works at the Supreme and National Court at Waigani.  He is Voluntary Organising Committee of the Crocodile Prize Competition. Mr Bina writes and contributes lots for writing competitions.

His book called, Man of Calibre won the 2015 Ok Tedi Book of the Year category.  Some of his writings are published in the Crocodile Prize Anthologies.  Mr Bina is a published author and some of his titles available on Amazon’s e-books and Kindle.

Below is a piece he wrote:

When the moon shines the village comes alive when children have fun. A short story. 

 It was written to submit to the Bridport Prize but since we in Papua New Guinea could not pay entry fees by electronic means the story was not submitted and is reprinted here for you to enjoy.

 It is now part of anthology in the soon to be published – Musings of Sogopex.

Raiders of the Night Moon by Baka B Bina

 The moon was slowly coming onto the mountains. The rays streaming through the wall of Casuarina trees surrounding the hauslain were enough to light up the village square.  In the centre of the line of houses towards the centre bottom end of the village a game of kalabus was in progress.  The moon picked the whites of ashes that were used to draw two big circular rings in the ground.   The rings placed twenty metres apart with a small square attached to one side of the circle.  The rings were called the haus and the boxes to the side called the kalabus.   In a type of tag game, the opposing players would be caught and locked up inside the kalabus and then the other side would then try to free their member in it by tagging them or they too were caught and ended in the kalabus.

If a person was in the haus, they were safe but if they were outside, they would be caught brought or held in captive in the kalabus of the other haus team.   The team could just about run anywhere along the length and breadth of the village and could be caught by anyone last out of the haus.

Outside her house the old woman Lapun Ihene had a fire going and the smell of her cooked kaukaus permeated the surroundings.  She pulled the kaukaus out from the ashes of the fire where she had them baked and placed them beside the fire.   It was her special Opume kaukaus that had the beautiful aroma which whiffed around the children making them hungrier than they were.  She was making it a show scrapping off the hard burnt skin of a kaukau and patting the same around so that the aroma whiffed over and around her fireplace.

She had quite a big pile and the children looked at her wondering who she was feeding when she lived with only her granddaughter. Alungo surely didn’t eat all that pile of kaukau.  You could be sure as hell some of the children were making plans on how they could get Alungo to get the kaukau for them to share or to create a ruckus near to the fire in a pretext to steal a piece on the growing pile.

Every now and then she was cursing and reprimanding the children from running close by her fire. She was one with a constant reminder that one of these children could kick the embers onto one of the houses that were tinder dry and could catch on fire easily.

‘You kick the fire and the embers into those houses! Do your parents have the resources to replace and fix the house that gets burnt? Ghahali’q!

‘Shoo with your running next to the fire.’

Most of the houses in the hauslain were made of bush materials:  kunai for the roof and split pitpit or bamboo for the wall.  Some of the houses were rectangular following an imitation of houses built on the coastal provinces but most were the traditional round houses.  It looked like a cone placed on top of a circular corralled-in fence.

In another house further up the hauslain, Iveghulo was already trying a few notes to his bedtime songs.  It was his way of telling the village that he has had his supper and was getting ready for bed.  If the village cared, they should follow suit.  The children made jokes following his few trials – why waste a good night holed up in a house when the moon was up and about.  Somebody a long time ago had substituted his name with the English equivalent – Crying Dog and some ribald words were thrown his way about his fine tuning of his songs.

This started a hocus pocus of bouts of laughter among the children.

 IveghuloCrying Dog had a habit of singing a few songs to bed down the village and then let in the silence to settle them down for the night.  Then at some ungodly hour, he shocked and woke them all up – at the first crow of the rooster as if his internal time clock ran on the rooster’s time.  The big boys in the village always tried to find ways to pot the rooster and to see if they could throw Crying Dog’s internal time into disarray.  The rooster who somehow always got to know the scheme of the boys would find new perching places each night. However it’s favourite was the guava tree behind Crying Dog’s house.  Crying Dog also knew of the boy’s yearning to pot the rooster and he did his best to thwart any attempt.   Man and Rooster teamed up each day to continue their singing and, as they did every day, they stopped at precisely five a.m.

The hauslain children never knew why these two did that but it was a good excuse for them wake up to get to the creek to wash for school.  A few mothers, if they never woke to the cacophony of noises from Crying Dog and his rooster back up, woke up after the singing dingdong stopped to hastily cook their children’s kaukau for breakfast and lunch.

What the children didn’t know was that this was just about the time when the morning chill moved up the gully and exhausted itself at the cluster of the bamboo at the top end of the village. It was in the oracles of the village that the time was when the cold of the earth prepared to leave and when the warmth of the air came to occupy the earth. Then the masalais who were nocturnal returned to their house from their daily night flights during this time and Crying Dog stopped singing so as not the disturb them.  He only sang during the moon nights and not on the nights when it was rainy and miserable.

When he sang during the times of no moon, it was the Homasi songs and the children were told not to disturb him as he was singing songs of worship of their forefathers.  One or two children who enquired why the tone and tempo were different, got a slap on the ear. Homasi songs were to be revered and not disparaged.

The singing at this early time of the night was good for the children as they could do their laughing and crying and making of children’s noises.

 Lapun Ihene was always admonishing the children about the mi’vena.  She said their crying and hollering in the moonlight was sure to bring these mi’venas closer to the village.

Mi’venas were spirit women who lived in the wetlands and creeks and had long hair and big long susus that they threw over their shoulders.  They had dry patches in the wetlands where two or three of the mi’vena would sunbathe and preen each other’s hair.  They were always on the look out to catch some wayward child that they could adopt.

The children lived in fear and awe of these mi’venas and Umalisimo and Muson spent a considerable time looking for these women of the creeks and wetlands. It was all in vain though.

For now in the village, in the protection of the hauslain and adults, these thoughts mattered less. The children were being children and they hollered without fear of disturbing this spirits.  They knew that Crying Dog’s singing ensured that these masalais and mi’venas never came around near to the village and, regardless, nobody, especially thanked him for that.

The children always tried to test his level of patience. They teased him to no end.  Tonight, one or two of the brave children would find a way to put in a thing or two that will make Crying Dog come out of his house and put an end to all their fun.

Most game nights Crying Dog suffered the jibes of the children. But then there were the nights when the jibes got the better of him and he came out the mad dog he was. He said it disturbed his peace of the night.

The children didn’t complain when he sang to disturb their peace. But they broke up anyway. On the worst of nights, Crying Dog came out with his bow and arrows, then that was serious and the children ran skitter scatter putting an abrupt stop to a good game.

In the house down at the bottom end of the hauslain, Manna took out her ropes for making bilums and decided to go house visit with Alunoso. Alunoso was going to teach her the latest twist for making bilum.

Umalisimo had skipped dinner for the kalabus game.  Ma Manna made sure that his food was covered and put in the usual place where he would find his food.

 Alunoso’s three children had been fed and two of the elder ones were out in the village. The youngest was sleeping after Alunoso had done her best to tell her of Seksie and the Climbing Bean – her version of Jack and the Beanstalk.  There were very different versions in each household and each night too.  Tonight’s version was Ve’né Alungo and the Assbean Rope with the Lapun Ihene for the mother.

The bigger children were indifferent to these activities in the village. In one kalabus there were three children from the other team caught and standing tag team-like facing towards their own house.  The prized tin was still in the middle, skewed towards the top end house.  At the other house, there was one girl in the prison.  The red team had three members eyeing the prized tin and scheming about how they were going to release their three members.  Usually there would be one member standing guard over the kalabus. But right now in the blue team the four members were huddled in their own scheme.

Suddenly, the team broke apart and scrambled to meet the incoming who made a pass to tag the end member of the prisoners. The incoming was cut off but he ran on followed by a chaser.  The last one out of the house was always the attacker and the first one out the defender.  Umalisimo was now the defender.  He had been the attacker but his position had changed.

He shot past Crying Dog’s house pulling at the rafter-end-timbers sticking out of the eaves of the roof.   Inside, Crying Dog who was pausing after a long winded song shouted out.   The disturbed cinders on the rafters spangled down in flotsam.

 

E‘gge, who was that child out there!’   Who is that stupid child wanting to play games on the house?’

He turned around in his blanket.

Tokowa-ma-ne! Take it away! How dare you want to play games, iselova gholosa!’ His gravel gruffy voice shouted angrily from inside the house.

Umalisimo tried to run the language through his head and smirked at the result. Some products of bad copulation, bad children, take the games to your own bushes!’

Whoops and hee haws ran amongst the children playing in reply to the curses as they came flying out of the house and at Umalisimo’s best English translation.  That was going to bring Crying Dog out of his house.

Umalisimo ran back skittles around the attacker with a right feign and for an added shot made another pass on Crying Dog’s house and on the same rafter timber, he had pulled to break his speed and shoot off in another direction.

The chaser ran – slam into the wall of the house.

Hai’iie, Iselova gholosa, gopa moniki ghetan`e, which out of wed-lock child was it this time? Who was that?’

He hollered, shaking off the cinders that fell on him in clumps the second time. He coughed out the ones that landed in his face and he sang out his anger loud and long, bastardising the children outside again repeating that the children were a result of bad copulation.

The children drew power and made more cringing appreciative noises in answer back to him.

‘The bastards – gopa moniki getane!’

‘Whii–ii ii haha!’ Shouts rang out from the children from wherever they were along the length and breadth of the village.

These further riled him. Other times he’d be comfortable on his thin dirty mattress and would not have the urge and the energy to get up to get the bow or to get out after the damned children.

This time, this night, it was different.

Crying Dog threw the old blanket off and sprang up from the bed, his old bones making creaking noises as they snapped into positions. He put his hands over to the side of wall and touched the bamboo receptacle that held his arrows.

The imps were trying to pull down his house. Their parents did little to help him build the house and their ungrateful children now saw fit to play on his house.

He fumed as he pulled down his sheath of arrows and pulled down his bow from the hikise, the straddle holding up dry firewood.   He was fuming mad now.  The pull on the timber and the slamming into the wall was one act that rattled him to the bones.  He tried to string the bow inside the house but the palm bow refused to bend and he abandoned it.

From the side, he pulled out his bird bow, the one made from bamboo stem. He pulled out ten bird shots – gisupos, and looked for the heaviest one.  He toyed with the fighting arrow but that was going to be a matter for the courts if he shot one of the imps.  A bird shot would stun and perhaps get under the skin of the target – well if he could see clearly who he was spearing in the moonlight.

Umalisimo was all smiles as he scooted back behind the houses and darted back into the ring house – safe for now.  He sat panting and hearing all the smart remarks and rebukes about him setting off Crying Dog.

The chaser was knocked out a bit and she straggled back to her ring house.

Riding on the praise of his haus, Umalisimo shot out again when he felt something zing into his trousers.

‘Mama’ and he fell flat on the ground.

‘Whiihi- ii haha, there, I’ve shot you!’

‘Which child did I shoot?’

The shout was enough to send mayhem into the night and everyone went skitter scatter, hollering in all direction.

‘Whii haa!’ They challenged as they shot out of sight.

Two girls heard the zing and saw Umalisimo go down in a heap. They swarmed in to pick up the shocked Umalisimo and half dragged and half carried him down the length of the hauslain.

‘Umalisimo has caught an arrow, Umalisimo has caught an arrow.’

 They regrouped out on the tracks leading out of the hauslain to a cluster of soft bamboo where they deposited Umalisimo.  A quick frisk showed that the arrow had not caught flesh.  They heaved a sigh of relief and waited for the rest of the children.

Two other boys made a pass at Lapun Ihene’s kaukau pile and ran off with quite a few of the choicest selection.

The motley group of children from both camps sat down to catch their breaths and laugh. They looked at the gisupo still stuck in Umalisimo’s baggy pants.  They were relieved that there was no blood pouring out of the trousers.  They were relieved also that the spear was not a palm head on the fighting arrow.  These two other arrows could have different results. Someone had found a container and produced cool fresh water from the spring stream below them.  They were all noises trying to outdo each other retelling how they outwitted Crying Dog.

In the village, there was a rumble of loud motherly noises, with all of the mothers trying to drown each other out, trying to find out which of their children was shot.

‘Can’t you understand, your children are trying to pull down my … my house.’

‘What good house are you talking about, you shot my son!’

‘What child are you talking about? You ask how we copulated to bring on these children!  Ha, you want us to tell you the sordid details, ah!  You are looking for words to say, don’t you?   Oh, thank you for nothing.’

Lapun Ihene put on her own screeches about her missing kaukau.

‘I need my kaukaus back.’

‘Oh stop worrying about kaukaus. Anyway, whom are you trying to always feed with all those kaukau and it was a bedlam of noises; one man against the whole hauslain of mothers and women.

Manna was heard taking it on with Crying dog.   She was seeing red at him for spearing her son.

‘You spear my son. You’ll tell me how many men you have shot. I would have thought that you were part of the back of houses.   Wey! Let me see my son first and we’ll talk more about that tomorrow.’

Mothers were screaming at Crying Dog and Crying Dog’s deep voice rang in defiance at the village women who asked for their children to be left as children.

‘Weren’t you a child before?’

‘We are told stories of you teasing old Ghumove. You forgot about that past of yours.  You forgot that as a child you stole his cooked kaukau from under his nose and you forget that you were as a cheeky as a child.  The very thing you did, these very children are doing now.  And when they want to enjoy being children and you want to spear them. E’gge, somebody wake up that old man Ghumove and we’ll have him spear you.’

Haha, getting old Ghumove out from his grave was funny. That was something that happened a generation ago.  Some husbands were telling their wives his childhood cheekiness.  Yeah, that was him.  He forgot about all of that but these stupid children are playing on him.

‘Listen, you are a ghahali’q.  Wait till we see that child and you’ll make good reparations. A ghahali’q has nothing and we know you are worse than a ghahali’q! From whence will you make the reparations.’

The children had Umalisimo sitting mug in the middle with his trophy of gisupo and baggy trousers and looking for an escape route if needed.  The bamboo cluster near Ve-lamino’s ridge gave way to a small cliff and onto the path that led to the water spring.  If Crying Dog were to follow them they could jump off into the thick bush.

Umalisimo took great pains to try to see if he could find his wounds in the moonlight. He moved his hands to look at his wound.  There was nothing.  The bamboo arrow head had embedded itself into Umalisimo’s tattered trousers.  Luckily for him, he was wearing a baggy two sizes extra jean chorded shorts so it was caught on without nicking into his skinny legs.

If Crying Dog had not made as much noise as he had fired that arrow, nobody would have known if he had indeed fired an arrow and Umalisimo would not have any idea that the arrow was embedded in his shorts.

For good measure, the children started a bonfire using dried bamboo stems and leaves. Umalisimo released the rope that held up his trousers and the baggy shorts dropped.  Lucky for him, he had a boxer of sorts – another cut jeans inside.  There was no bleeding.

They laugh at Umalisimo’s discomfort and then retold what had really happened to get Crying Dog out of his house with his bow and arrows.

‘Oh, I pulled at the rafter pole twice and Sa’sae ran smack into the wall to get him out of his house.’ There was snickering of laughter all around.

‘Yeah, that was stupid of you. You know us girls cannot run as fast as you boys and you tricked me into slamming into the wall of the house.  I came away really counting more stars than being exhausted.’  Sa’sae shot back.

This time they all laughed loudly and screamed in joy and the noise permeated the village night.

That silence into the village as it indicated nothing serious had happened.

Crying Dog made a parting statement as he went into his house.

‘Stupid children, now let me not hear you lot in the village again tonight. Take your games to the road or somewhere to your own areas.  You all come back and this time you will get a real arrow.  I tested you and your mothers with a gisupo and your parents do a little wee wee in their stinky old smelly purrpurr.  We’ll see what a real arrow will do to you all.’

The women retreated into their own homes grumbling and throwing disparaging comments to no one in particular …‘like when you shot your arrows at the enemy in a fight… and stingy comment like he who walks in the shadow of houses.

‘Okay you talk about our purrpurr; we’ll see what you will pay from out of your dirty malo wrap up that had not been washed in a decade.’ Another woman shouted out with glee and was joined in by several other women giggling at the fun of the statement.

The children did not hear Crying Dog’s threat and were indifferent to his statements. They started a song and sang as loud as they could, adding a few lines that tarnished Crying Dog and his rooster.

Those who were lucky to be sitting next to the kaukau thieves were glad to share a piece of kaukau that Lapun Ihene had lost to the ding of the night.

Then the rebukes started coming on strong in the songs as they children improvised and changed words to good songs.

Goodman, whose house was the last in the hauslain and nearer to the singing children, shouted his displeasure that they were going to burn down his new bamboo cluster.  Goodman was the anglicized Ve-lamino.  The children had anglicized all the men’s name in the village and used these new names as a code to get out of trouble.

They broke up after a few more good songs and each child, as quietly as he could, returned back to his or her home.

Umalisimo and Muson held back. They also tried to hold back Rip and Van. But these two felt they had had enough for the night and they trudged off. These boys knew that Muson meant more excitement and perhaps more trouble for the night which they didn’t want to be involved in.

Yeah that was right. Muson had a wonderful idea to exact revenge on Crying Dog.   He had spotted several rows of peanuts in Crying Dog’s garden.

They were going to raid the garden. This was going to be sweet revenge for the arrow shot.

Muson as always, was always prepared for the night. He didn’t believe in masalais and mi’venas.  He took them on.  He was tall for his age and towered over most of the boys including Umalisimo and it was debated that these spirits thought he was an adult.

Leaving Umalisimo at the side of the garden beside the pitpit fence, Muson ran low in the drain to the peanut plot. There were ten rows of peanuts and Muson ran up and down the rows selectively pulling at the plants here and there so that the crime was not easy to spot.

Umalisimo was hastily separating the peanuts from the plants so that they could only take the peanuts only. He was bagging them into a bag.

The moon went behind a cloud and for the first time, thoughts of masalais and mi’venas crept into his mind.  These spirits lived in dark spots and the pitpit cluster could be one.  He turned around and looked hard into the dark clusters.  His hair stood on end.  He didn’t like the prospects of a mi’vena pulling him by the scruff of the neck into one of these clusters of dark spots and … and adopting him, not especially if she was going to have two huge long, long susu that she’d throw over her shoulders.

Umalisimo was having goose bumps and cold sweats and he nearly jumped out of his skin when Muson crept up on him with another large bundle of peanut plants. Umalisimo was now shaking in real fear.

Somehow he got the secondary notion that the garden owner would happen upon him. Umalisimo did not know whose garden they were raiding as this was not his normal sphere of roaming places.

‘Whose peanut garden are we raiding? Umalisimo whispered in a shaky voice.

For an answer, Umalisimo flashed him a shining set of teeth. Umalisimo looked at the shining spangle white stars as they reflected off the moonlight.

‘I’ll tell you later. Now let’s hide the plants’.

They had no time. The next instant they were running for their lives as arrows flew overhead in quick succession followed by a booming voice.

Between ducking arrows and gasping for air Umalisimo could hardly ask if that was Crying Dog. But he did think woops, why, we just then did we raid Crying Dog’s garden?

His trousers came loose and he held them up in one had as he ran.

Muson had taken to running within the shade of the pitpit strands that were the fence line. They scrambled as arrows came flying after them.  One whizzed over Umalisimo’s head and he ducked down to hug the ground.  He laid squat, panting hard on the ground and now the scare of the night slowly gripped his legs.  He could feel his knees turning gooey.

Muson had pulled up in front and then reversed to pull Umalisimo by the scruff of the old tattered black shirt that somehow was his favourite. Muson now rendered a huge tear in it. He hauled him to a squat position and both looked over to where they had run from.

Then good fortune came upon them. They heard Crying Dog making noises towards the other end of his garden.  It seemed to them that there was some other person who had had the same idea as them who had shot out from some part of the garden and Crying Dog was now chasing after that person.  This time he was making so much noise that one would have thought that he had caught the culprit.

Both boys ducked under some pitpit that had fallen over which provided them some cover as they pulled their loot together. Muson had run with the peanut bag and, looking at it, he realised that half the contents had fallen out.  He debated whether to go looking for them. They could still hear Crying Dog at the far end of the garden.  Muson squeezed his arm to reassure Umalisimo and ducked out of the covering.

Umalisimo watched and, as the darkness engulfed Muson, he stood up and prepared himself to run. He tied his loose trousers and crept out of the shade, this time on his haunches.

Then Muson came back quick this time and they left the covering and skirted along the edges of the fence and moved through Umalisimo’s mother’s garden.

The garden had three types of peanuts: the traditional type, the gheya-gheya that spread out on runners and had the nut packed in real tight to the shell; the white European peanuts, his favourite, and the Markham peanut, named after the place near the coast where the seeds had come from when they were introduced to the highlands.

A digging stick was needed to dig out the gheya-gheya peanut, so he let them be. Umalisimo’s mother had harvested the white European ones – which left the Markhams – his least favourite, as the only option. If the planting was right, the Markhams gave bountiful cropping.  He knew, however, that since Ma had not harvested them, the cropping might have been bad.  He pulled out a plant and, when they checked the pods, they were soft, indicating that the peanut plant did not bear well.

AS they stood there discussing whether they should dig up more Markhams, they heard Crying Dog’s voice carry across the ravine from the village. He was talking to Komiti.

‘Oh, Komiti oh, those stupid boys went and stole my peanuts and I was trying to spear them. I think I must have shot one.’

‘Oh I heard your screaming out at the big garden. Do we know the children?’

‘No I don’t know. But it is my suspicion that it was Muson and his little disciple Umalisimo. I’m sure I recognised Umalisimo. But I am not going to his mother’s house now to check on him.  I speared him earlier and I may be wrong to believe that I did put some sense in him.  I will not get past his kranki mother tonight.  It is that Muson that I want to check out his house.  I was checking first on you to see if you had already gone to sleep.’

‘Oh!’

‘I heard you chasing someone towards Sogopex. Are you sure that you don’t want to check on Umalisimo.’

‘No, I want to check that tomorrow because I think I really did spear a small child. He ran towards Lapun Anupato’s cemetery.’

‘Oh! Now let me get a teapot on the fire. You go and check Née for his son and come here.’

He was only murmuring to Komiti. But, in the quiet of the night, his voice carried over onto the garden on the other side of the small dale and both boys scrambled into action. They took the bag of peanuts and threw it over the fence into a patch of lopoha grass that was their favourite hiding place.  They then ran down to the marsh and, as best as they could, walked through the mud to the back of Muson’s mother’s house.

They pulled up under the strong bamboo patch and used the dry bamboo leaves to wipe and rid their feet off any mud. Muson had built a small dog hut for himself and they both got in as quietly as they could.  They were trying to get comfortable when there was a call from the front of the house.

‘Née, if you are there, can you check if your boy is there. I shot a boy and am scared that he might die in the bush tonight and I am not looking forward to trouble.’

‘We’-eh, what are you saying?’, Née asked as she undid the door to her house and came out with her hurricane lamp. She moved to the small hut and rapped on the wall calling her son.

‘Oh boy, what trouble this boy goes through.’

‘Nama Ghoholo’, she called her son. Nama Ghoholo was beautiful bird probably a Bird of Paradise.

‘Nama Ghoholo, are you in here or what?’ She rapped on the blind wall.

As she called in, three boys moved to the door sheepishly, their face covered in sheets. Raymond had been sleeping in the house when the two boys arrived.

Née took one look at them and starting berating Crying Dog.

‘Eh man, you want to start accusing these boys of stealing. You see that they are in bed.  You should have slept in and then, tomorrow looked for the culprits.  That is some wild accusation you are throwing around.  There is Muson and Raymond, now who is this other boy, Pouwo!  When could they have gone to steal from your garden?’

Ne’ e called Umalisimo by his pet name ‘Pouwo’ but Crying Dog left the yard at least knowing that Muson was home.

The moon on the downward trend sent in a sliver of light straight through the open door into the house. Komiti looked at Crying Dog. Crying Dog had his head down, deep in troubling thoughts.  What folly has he committed now?  If that arrow he fired, if it had struck Umalisimo, that would be two arrows in one night.  It was enough to start a third world war in the village.

Another thought came to his mind. The person that ran from his foot went with a swooosh.  It was too fast for a normal child.  He had heard of other kids in the area, perhaps a dwarfy hikoi, a papa graun, one of those friends of the mi’venas … yeah, a masalai or the host of other night things, he was not going to imagine what calamities that will come fall on Crying Dog.

Crying Dog too had stopped thinking about what calamities he had brought upon himself. He could not continue the night.  At last he raised the cup and downed the last of the cold tea.

Komiti had had many encounters of his own with the hikois of Laheko.  His coffee garden spanned two ridges and he still grew a lot of trees, so it was only natural for the hikois to live in the shade and darkness of it.

There had been that one time not long ago when they had tied him up after he took a nap while picking coffee. If only it had not rained, he’d have spent the night out there with them.  The rain woke him up only to find that his hands and feet had been clumsily tied together and beside him were three full bags of coffee cherries.  He reasoned that for whatever mischievous reasons, the hikois had tied him up and then picked his coffee and they had three bags full of cherries.

At first he had thought that his wife and children had played a trick on him. When he asked in the afternoon, his wife had spent the day in town at the markets and his children had gone to the big river with the other village children.  They had not given him and assistance in the coffee picking and nobody had tied him up.

He knew he was tied up and somebody picked his coffee. He killed a pig and did his luso waso then to keep his spirits back.

Only last month, these mi’vena dwarfs took care of his pig for a couple of days.  The particular pig had gone away with the rope that it had been tethered to.  It had rained heavily continuously for a couple of days making it impossible for him to go searching for the pig.  When the rain stopped, he and his wife looked everywhere for it.  They could not find it and they were about to give up.

But then his wife found the pig. It was in a very dry spot sitting with a smug smile and was as cozy as a tame pig. She would have thought that the pig would squeal and yell for food.  Instead it was a sated pig with a smug smile.  What his wife found disconcerting was that in the wet ground around the area were lots of foot prints belonging to a lot of small children. This was immediately below the area of Lapun Anupato’s cemetery, a hallowed area where no adult went on their own or alone to, let alone children.

Crying Dog had listened. What was Komiti trying to say?

A cold sweat formed on his brow. Mi’venas were something he did not like to discuss.  Did he shoot a mi’vena or a hikoi? No man saw a mi’vena or a hikoi and lived long and he thought that he might have shot one tonight.

He had been reminded of the story of Sukuluho. He had caught a mi’vena and had gone crazy.  He had become a wild man, spending his days in the creeks and under bushes – places where the mi’venas dwelled.  They said he was smitten by one of the mi’venas

He did not want to spend his days doing the same. He would now have to do the right thing with his only pig and do that bamboo puripuri and luso waso. He was going to appease these things tomorrow.

Crying Dog walked out the door without bidding goodnight or morning. Komiti could read his worries on his backside. Crying Dog was going to spend the rest of the night very restless.

Ne’e put in more firewood as dawn approached. The rest of the night after Crying Dog had left was all howls of mii-mmii’s.  The last time she had heard these night noises was when Halavo had shot what he thought had been a pig.  Halavo nearly died after that.   They did all that bamboo cooking puripuri and luso waso to get him back to his proper self.  She wanted answers from the boys.  What did they do to disturb the mi’venas?

Umalisimo sat up all night looking from where in the small hut was a hikoi going to creep into the house.  The mii-mmii howls had been going on around and under the house all night long.

He turned over and over in a cold chilly sweat remembering the one night he and Muson had nearly caught one of these things that calls out mii-mmii’s.  They had spent a night out raiding from the big gardens and had decided they were also going to spend the night under the grass.  They were huddled together trying to sleep under a stock of lopoha grass when the mii-mmii thing walked past a few centimeters away from Muson’s head.  Muson had thrown a bag over it and caught the thing.  He had grabbed it and the thing gave him the biggest blow to his face and he now has a chipped teeth.  The mi’venas were real.  Muson says that, for a small thing, they are very strong.

Tonight these things were agitated over something and were all over them under and near the house.

Umalisimo was not going to go back for the peanut bag.

 

 


 

The Hunting Trip

Edited for the Blog and the Anthology from an Entry for the 2017 Crocodile Prize Kumul Petroleum Holdings Limited by Leila Parina.  Leila loves reading, writing, sketching, and dancing. Community volunteering work is something she is happy to do in her free time. She began writing very early at about 9 years old.  Her first published work was just out this year. A piece “A paradigm shift” featured in the PNG anthology “My walk to Equality”

The Hunting trip:

Billy had woken up early that morning. It was an exciting day for him. He was admiring a spear which he held in his hand. Just then a voice shouted from the house, “Mum! Where’s my spear?” It was Garo, Billy’s older brother.

Billy looked up at mother as she gave him a look. They were both by the fireplace as she prepared breakfast. Billy grinned sheepishly as he stood up. With spear in hand he quickly left mother just as soon as Garo entered.

“Mum?” asked Garo. Mother laughed then said, “The food is ready now”.

“I’m afraid I don’t have time to eat. I’ll take my food along with me. I’ll get going as soon as I find my spear” he said as he looked in the corners of the house.

“Your spear is with your brother. Now please get him and come have something to eat before you both go”, said Mother.

“WHAT?!” he exclaimed, “Why does he have my spear, and why are we both going? Mother, there is a wallaby that I have been trying to catch for two days now and I am sure I will catch it today. Billy will ruin everything if he comes.”

Mother smiled and passed Garo a platter of fried bananas and kaukaus. Billy walked in with a wide grin on his face. The sight of Billy angered Garo so much he almost dropped the food. This made Billy laugh out loud while Garo scowled. Once seated, Mother offered a prayer of thanks, and then the boys ate. Garo ate half of his food and put half away in a knapsack, while Billy gobbled all on his plate.

After arguing with Mother for almost half an hour Garo knew it was of no use. Billy had to come with him. Disobedience was not an option. “Ok fine,” he sighed, ”Billy can come along”.

Once ready Mother handed Billy a knapsack filled with banana and kaukau. Garo groaned, “we are going hunting, not to a picnic trip.” Billy was hesitant but accepted the food anyway. They both bid mother farewell and left. Father had also told them to be back before sunset.

 

As the boys walked further into the bushes Garo laid down the ground rules. “Alright! Whatever you do, do not interfere. Just watch what I do. Do not ask silly questions. Do not run around wherever you want to. Do not touch my spear. And if you see anyone, do not talk to them…”

“Geez, am I even allowed to breath?” Billy muttered.

“What, what was that?”

“Oh. Nothing”

The boys walked on in silence. They had just turned past a huge rain tree when Billy spotted a wallaby, just several metres from where they were walking. He tugged at his brother, “ Garo! Look!” Garo saw the animal but realised that it was too late as Billy had already alerted it with his screams. The wallaby quickly ran off. “Why did you have to scream?” Garo scolded his brother, “don’t you know loud noises scare animals away?! You know nothing about hunting! Urgh! ”

Garo angrily marched off. Billy followed. “I’m sorry big brother”, he pleaded. “It’s alright, just keep quiet next time”. Billy nodded.

They neared a creek and decided to cool off in the waters. They had a great time playing in the water and Garo’s anger quickly subsided. He looked up to the sky and saw that it was already past noon. Billy must be really hungry now, he thought. He left Billy in the water while he waded out to dry off and prepare the food. When he walked toward their bag he saw the wallaby sniffing their bag. Just my luck! He thought. Then he realized that he had left his spear and the bush knife on a rock in the water. He turned to see Billy diving in and rising up from the water.

Billy turned just in time to see his brother looking at the rock in front of him with an odd expression. Garo saw Billy looking at him and started waving frantically. Wow, thought Billy, Garo must be really happy with me. He waved back happily and dived back into the water. When he rose from the water he saw his brother making throwing signs at him. Hmmm, maybe Garo wants me to throw myself more. He dived in once again. When he got out he felt that he had had enough. He picked up the spear and knife from the rock and made his way out of the river.

Garo felt helpless as the wallaby sniffed and nuzzled at the contents in their bag. He looked up and saw Billy coming over with the spear. Finally! But when he turned to see the wallaby it was already scurrying off. Billy saw and he suddenly realized what Garo was trying to tell him this whole time.

Garo sank to the ground like a heap of kaukaus. “Garo, I’m sorry”, said Billy mournfully, “I didn’t even realize”. Garo sniffled, “You’re not ready to hunt yet. Let’s just go home”. He picked up their things and started walking. Billy helped him and followed obediently.

They were near the village when they passed a mango tree. Billy wanted to climb the mango tree but Garo didn’t. He insisted on going home straight away. Garo was holding the bush knife and carrying the bag, so he walked in front while Billy held onto the spear and tagged along. Billy turned to take one last look at the mango tree and saw the WALLABY!

Without thinking he threw the spear and it hit the wallaby. The animal fell. Garo turned and saw what had happened. He was overjoyed. “Little brother”, he exclaimed,” you are a hunter”. Billy smiled and said, “I learnt it all from my big brother”.

The two excited boys picked up their meat and headed home to their very proud parents.

That night they had a lovely dinner of wallaby meat, kaukau, and bananas.

 

 

 

Baka B. Bina works at the Supreme and National Court at Waigani.  He is Voluntary Organising Committee of the Crocodile Prize Competition. Mr Bina writes and contributes lots for writing competitions.

His book called, Man of Calibre won the 2015 Ok Tedi Book of the Year category.  Some of his writings are published in the Crocodile Prize Anthologies.  Mr Bina is a published author and some of his titles available on Amazon’s e-books and Kindle.

Below is a piece he Co-wrote with his wife:

In times gone by, if a girl fell pregnant, her life fell apart. We were discussing the possibility of our daughters getting pregnant while still in school and in talking to them, we came up with this piece. 

 It is now part of anthology in the soon to be published – Musings of Sogopex.

 Love For A Graduation Present  by Baka and Emily Bina

 The morning was cold, chilly with mist hugging the ground and coffee trees surrounding the village. Inside the houses, the cold penetrated the blind walls and dug deep into the blanket and bones.  Yasiiname felt the chill creep in among the pitpit blind on the pitpit bed and pulled the old gaman blanket that she had been using for the last umpteen years over herself one more time.  She kicked her legs and pulled the last of the blanket to cosset herself within its warmth.

She had done this so many times before. Most mornings, she had to throw back the blanket, get out of the warmth of the bed and meet the cold morning to get ready to go to school. Today, however, was different.

Her last day of school, at least this school, had been yesterday and, with it, the compulsion to throw back the blanket. She really loved this old gaman blanket and she pulled it in all over herself again making sure that no drafts creeping in from the pitpit blinds onto the pitpit bed could get to her.  She wanted to wait for the cold to disappear before crawling out of the blanket to think about the day.

‘Jasii girl! Yasiiname? Are you in there or not?’

The voice that she had dreaded each morning for all these years called from somewhere outside the house. ‘Fathers can be terrorizing,’ she muttered to herself.

‘I don’t need to get out of bed now!’

Yasiiname rued the day and pulled the blanket in tighter. She knew the cold air would sit in the bowl of the valley until the sun came high over the mountains to chase it away.   She would wait for the sun.  She deserved it.  Surely Dada could spare her a morning in bed?

She had been a slave to drudgery, having to do the same thing each morning since she started going to school as a tiny tot: get out of her blanket and prattle across to the creek, brushing past chilly dew that clung onto the slender kunai grass and the occasional mimosa grass, not to mention the occasional scramble to get over clumps of bush in the way because the morning pigs were trying to get to the early worms, making her all wet and soggy even before she got to the creek.

It was never easy getting under the hewn bamboo pipe to wash herself with the bone-jolting icy water that cascaded from its spout. The cold splashing water woke every cell in her body, and standing in last night’s cold muddied water brought the threat of frostbite to her poor toes.  And the pool at the bottom of the waterfall swirled in a backwash that was black, deep and scary.

She was not going to that waterfall this morning. Can’t they stop calling her, especially Dada?  She just finished her schooling yesterday, only just.  There was going to be no more early chilly wash from this morning on, she asserted to herself as she squirmed in the bed to get the last of the blankets in a cocoon around her.  She had been at it all of primary and high school. So, on this morning at least, she had earned the sleep in. ‘Where is Yasiiname? Did she sleep here or what?’

‘Oh bother, Dada. You go to sleep too, please’, she groaned as she tried to roll tighter within the blanket.

Yesterday, Graduation Day had brought a huge surprise. She knew she was an average student and would have just passed her exams, but to be called to receive the top prize for social science was something she wasn’t in the least expecting. Her head had pooped when it was announced from the podium that hers was the top mark in the national exams for schools in the Eastern Highlands Province.   Boy, she knew now, for certain, that she was one smart cookie. But it had not been too evident during her school life.

She dug her head into the bag of old clothes she used as a pillow trying to remember how she walked along the aisle up to the podium to receive her prize. All stars and spangles, she had floated on cloud nine.

It was, however, a staged walked. She tried to remember how the walk had been hijacked – when it turned from casual walk to a parade of pomp and flair – because her heart had been fluttering.

She knew she had him or, rather, he had her.

Shocked at her name being called, she had sat paralyzed until probed from behind to stand up and move. Through the glaze of this first shock, another had loomed large: the sight of the smiling face of her Adonis.  She had seen him, immediately in front of her, as she began her aisle walk – the dashing young fellow who held her heart in tatters, beaming a mile wide smile for her.

She had gone from shock one to shock two, making herself all watery in between and then, a flash back of yesterdays and yester nights. She would have fainted for him there and then, but had held her head up and continued robotically to the podium.  She could not remember the applause or the walk back as she strutted back, all pomp and ceremony in her gait. She had been on cloud nine. Yeah, she reminded herself in the blanket, and it had been for him alone.  She must have grown a couple of inches for him and it had been for him only.  She knew then that she was totally in love.

She felt hot flushes recalling the nights of passion they had shared just a few weeks back. She reminisced about the mornings when she had crept back furtively to the house and tried to wash.  Some mornings she had been reluctant to wash.  She wanted his smell to linger with her forever.

‘People are coming. Go wake up the girl.’

‘Yasiie girl, please do wake up!’ it was the plaintive voice of Sukale, her mother.

The sound of axe on good dry casuarina wood rang through the village – the signal that a mumu was going to be held.  It was followed by sounds of stone on stone meaning the mumu pit had been excavated.

‘You slumber like that and your debts will pass you by and grow like some mushroom without you knowing it. Come on girl, wake up. We are preparing the day for you and you sleep in like a baby. Girl, wake up! Your Aunty is bringing the pig and we need you to see the pig.’

Yasiiname pulled her hands in slowly trying to imagine that her Adonis was next to her. The cold air, instead, bit into her and she slowly, grudgingly rolled the blanket away, angry that there was no Adonis and angry at those people outside.  She wished they had made the fire inside the house.  This would have chased the cold out. ‘What have mushrooms and debts to do with the day? The man is crazy,’ she uttered silently to herself.

She picked up the dress of yester nights that she had worn to be with the Adonis and put it to her nose. The smell of the smoke from the dry casuarina tree that they had used to make a fire had permeated the dress, and there was the discernible smell of the Brut perfume, his Brut smell.  She tuned in on the spot on the dress where the smell was greatest and inhaled it, savoring the memory that it brought. She would make a beeline for him later tonight.  ‘Some morning,’ she rued. Oh boy, it was good enjoying the morning re-living her hot flushes inside the warm blanket and, brraa…h, she hated this early chilly call out.

It was a pity that she had been unable to escape to the Adonis’s arms last night because well wishers from the village had come and they had kept a long night small talking, with her enjoying the limelight. She wished that her father would not be so abrupt with her now.  She knew, however, that she was obliged to see the size of the pig that Auntie would bring along and to record it as her own debt that she was expected to repay some time later in her own life.  That was the way of life for them, a traditional dictate.

She held the dress fleetingly to her heart and then hung it by its neck onto the pitpit blind walls for a later time when she would return to his smell.

She walked out of the door into the mist-covered morning to see her father put the last of the stones onto the fired-up mumu mound.  The smoke from the mumu pit was already chasing away the mist.  Her mother was up too, sitting squat peeling kaukau for the mumu. Behind her was a small fire with a teapot on it.  In a tray on the ground were some cups and a sugar packet which was low on sugar.

Today was going to be her day in the village. She felt the warmth of her head growing big.  It was in the atmosphere.  The front of the house and around the mumu pit had been swept immaculately clean.  She could see that even the dark green leaves on the coffee trees beyond the mumu pit had an extra sheen this morning.

She made a cup of sweet tea. Oops, she made a mistake.  She should have used a strainer. But never mind.  There were a lot of tea leaves in her cup.

‘Make me one too, if you will. The whole family is coming and you still want to sleep like a baby. Those who did not come last night will come in the morning.  We will need a lot of water for the tea and plenty of sugar, if not lemon leaves or mapanuho’.

Yasiiname could already tell what the day was going to be like if they were going to have tea made of mapanuho.

There would be more good things said about her and her name would draw sweet praise from the villagers and her peers. She was the only one from the village to have been awarded a prize at yesterday’s graduation.  Also, inside the envelope that she had been given was her letter of acceptance to the new national high school that she would attend in the new year.  This piece of news would be broadcast at the mumu and so her blood was oozing special.

‘I did not get the first prize’, Yasiiname protested.

‘No, yes. You did not get the first prize, but the news of you going to the national high school is the big news. Now that is the first prize because it is the first for this village.  It is a step towards university.’

Yasiiname looked at Sukale. Her mother was a beautiful woman and Yasiiname was told that she took after her.  She would bring her mother untold joy if she could get to university.  She could repay her for all the early mornings she woke up to cook kaukau for her to take to school.  She had never heard her mother complain about her beauty being wasted. Yasiiname knew she was beautiful also, and had a long list of boys who had wooed her.  She was a bit more than size twenty-eight, but the boys never minded that she was shorter and slimmer than most of girls.

Her mother’s perseverance in roasting kaukau each morning had paid off when Yasiiname, in a first for the village, had been offered a place in national high school.  Her proud mother was wearing her happiness on her sleeve.  She worked with gusto peeling the huge pile of kaukau, enjoying the work with a newly found energy oozing from her body.

Loud noises erupted when Aunty came pulling a rope with a pig teetering on the end of it. The reluctant pig was putting up some resistance.  Ha’namo took off the bundle of banana leaves that straddled Aunty Rosa’s head and accepted the end of the rope.

He cleared his throat and called out to Yasiiname.

‘Eh, Yasiiname, my girl, you see this pig. I think it is a good pig to begin celebrating your success.  Your mother here, Rosa, is very proud of your success. We have high hopes for you.  It will be the start of bringing good things to our house.’

Yasiiname looked at the pig. It was a chubby black and white male pig whose husks were just beginning to form.   It was a pig that would have to be to be repaid.  Her cousins, Rosa’s children, were still small and already there was a duty or an obligation imposed on her.  This was the start of her own debts that she would have to repay in one form or another. Already there were investments in her new outings.

‘Vultures,’ she hissed to herself. She remembered all the kaukau that she had eaten in the mornings for breakfast, for lunch, for tea, and for dinner.  It was a monotonous meal that had been hers for the last ten years, and now the vultures are coming in for the spoils even before they had been gotten.  Where was she all these times when there were times when parties could be had but they could not because her parents could not afford them? ‘Bring it on, relatives or not, bring it on’. There was some cockiness in her line of thinking, but she was sure as hell she had earned it.

The gathering grew as her extended family came in with their contributions towards the celebratory mumu.  Several more small pigs and many chickens were also being slaughtered and cleaned.  One family came with enough sugar cane to feed the whole village.  As they arrived, they showered her with congratulations.  Ha’namo kept on asking Yasiiname to record everything that had been brought to the feast, which she did on a piece of paper. Some debts she rued.  If these did not stop, she’d be swamped in debt before she could even start at the national high school.

The crowd and the intense activity did not, however, hide her desire for her beau. She still wished him around and made arrangements for him to come around to their yard.  She had spent a good part of her growing up in Paliyo and Mamito’s house and she talked her father into inviting them to the mumu, even though the Paliyos were from the other clan in the village. It was in the Paliyo’s house that she had started her liaison with the young Adonis.  She knew that the Paliyo entourage would include him.

Contented, she busied herself with assisting everyone at the mumu so that her mind would not wander away to her Adonis.  She helped to fetch water from the creek to pour into the mumu.  She then swept away the rubbish and cleaned around the house.

The village square beyond was very clean and the grass lawns low. This was a highlands village, full of round houses, topped up freakishly by several coconut trees, making the place look like a coastal village.  Yasiiname remembered her very many liaisons against the coconut trees with many of the village boys. But this one was special and she was going to make the best of the holidays before she left for the national high school.

The aroma of the cooked pork meat spread throughout the village and mothers soon mingled with crying children around the mumu hole.  A table with a clean sheet was put in front where her certificate and letter were proudly displayed.  There was also a dish with a huge pork backbone and a couple of chickens in one dish and a second similar dish.

Uncle Jowari began the proceedings with words of thanks to her for bringing pride to the family. She was going to be the first female from the village to go to this new national high school in the new year.  Several of the girls before her had either gone to technical, teachers or nursing colleges from year ten.  She was entering into something new for the village – going to year eleven and twelve.

‘Going to the national high school is the first step to getting a place at one of the universities. It warms my heart to be the one to dish out this food in celebration of this achievement.   Look after yourself. Do not do things that will return you back to this village.  Ehe’q, look after your body and watch where your throw away your rubbish.’

Yasiiname half listened to all the cautions and a smile escaped from her when uncle started something about boyfriends.

 ‘Ehe’q, boys are only for making babies, babies that they will not necessarily want to look after or take as their own. You are going to a foreign school where boys from everywhere will be there.  Some will have strange customs and some will have no land at all.  Some will come from customs that will not have respect for your elders. They will be an impediment to your schooling.’

She rolled her eyes. If only her uncle knew of the boys she had played with and courted since grade five.  She had given her first kiss to a boy in grade five in the classroom in broad daylight after a dare by her friends.  She had lost her virginity two years later in grade seven and had had active courting nights since then, in between having her first period at the beginning of the year in grade ten.

Talk about boyfriends. She rolled her eyes again behind uncle’s back.  If only he knew.

Her uncle hoisted up the second dish for Paliyo and Mamito and to thank them for letting Yasiiname live with them, resulting in Yasiiname excelling in her school work. There was a round of applause and happy shouting whee haha in gratitude for them.  It was rare that a girl from one clan would find house in another clan.

Mamito took the dish gratefully while Paliyo gave his reply in thanks.

‘We saw from her early days in primary school that she was clever. But our house is a house for all the village children and she was no exception. We only ask that she remembers us when canes become our third legs’.

Yasiiname was only half-listening, distracted by her beau who was standing behind Paliyo. The Adonis looked at where she sat in honour next to the table.  Yasiiname saw his crooked smile and smiled back weakly, already planning the night.   The voices faded out and she was in cloud nine.

It had started a bit after her final exams. He had returned from his college down on the coast, all filled out from good food.  He had made a beeline for her despite all the other girls eyeing him.  As they sat out the night under the coconut tree, she had felt his touch and it was exhilarating and spuinking – a  word she had coined to describe the feelings she began to feel for him.  It was instant and rapid, this spuink.

It was not long before he had literarily carried her to his house. He had so much energy for the night and she was truly spent for the next couple of days. But she craved for him and made tracks to his house every night.  In his house far from the village they had done things that they couldn’t have done standing against the coconut trees.

She hungered miserably and could feel her body exuding an irritating yearning for more of the spuink.

When Unca Jowari finally crowned the presentation to give her dish of food, she went through the motions. Her mind was elsewhere.  She accepted the dish of food with the meaty part of the back bone and the head of the pig that Mama Rose had brought. Some present it was. She looked at it with disdain.  Presents were wrapped, not dished.

What was his present? He had said it, after the night of spent passion: ‘From me to you with love, a graduation present’. That, she thought, is a better present than this dish of food.

A thought then suddenly came upon her.

Her period had been due a few days ago. But it hadn’t come!  What were the school lessons on this?  Her Home Economics teacher was specific on this.  ‘If you miss a period, you are probably  pregnant if you had allowed a boy to…’

All the girls in the class had laughed at this laughable idea that schoolgirls were into sex.

‘Girls, girls, it is no laughing matter. Girls, one way or the other, do miss a period. And girls do allow boys.  If you did, don’t feel embarrassed. I let it happen when I was in grade seven’.

Every girl had blushed. She couldn’t have done her first one in grade seven. Not this teacher.  She was still single and not likely to fall prey to the other species and be in yoke to them.

The girls, however, had felt strangely reassured by the knowledge that they would not be the only ones doing it now that the teacher, who they thought was so godly, could admit to having been in a situation. It was a comfort, too, that girls from any society generally do find themselves in situations they cannot get out from and are forced into doing it.  It was important for the girls to fully understand their bodies and to be very careful.

Here they were in grade ten all thinking that they would not be found out.

‘And it only has to be the one right occasion. So girls, get rid of the notion that you have to have many trysts to fall pregsy.’ And they had laughed again at her pregsy word.  The rest of the lessons were a whirlwind of pregsy statements as the class joked incessantly.  They knew very well that some of them would be married off immediately upon graduating.  ‘Yeah, being pregsy did happen and will happen to every one of them, and they were involved with boys and …ahh.’

For her now, time was of the essence. When was the one right occasion?  She scratched her head. She could not remember. Diaries and notebooks were not for her.

She sat down squat onto her chair again trying to keep time, trying to confirm in her mind that she was not running late for her period. The praises and debts heaped on her started to feel a bit sour.

She sat squirming throughout the talk as the reality of being pregsy seeped into every pore of her body, replacing the fun-filled enduring spuinking touches the loving Adonis had sunk into them.

She tried hard to remember the home economic lessons about her cycle. But everything was a blur.

 Pregsy! That laughable word was not an option for her. But she could not ignore the enormity of it, if she was, in fact, pregsy. The world began to take on a gloomy hue. She sat transfixed in the old three legged chair.

What was going to happen if these people now wanting her success were to know that she was pregsy?  She could just hear, in replay, the words that had floated over her just then about looking for boys. Ehe’q, they cautioned, boys will only be interested in making babies.  She looked down at the end of the footstool where her feet had been running brushes with the soil.  She wished the soil would open up for her and drag her into the innards of the red humi. She wished they had told her earlier that some boy would have spuinking touches that cut through to the heart before the … ahh making babies bit.

Did someone mention that her going to year eleven opened a path to good living? It was a start to going away from the backbreaking mundane task of making kaukau mounds to grow enough to feed unappreciative people.

This was the boy that she’d stand up to her father for. She’d murder her father if the boy asked for her hand and her father said no.  But alas, she could not do so after all the accolades today.

She could not go to the new school if she was pregsy. Damn that teacher for this new word.  It was tormenting her now and with glee, like an  ‘I told you so’.

The new debts and accolades today were going to be a non-event and a case for much back talking, back stabbing and fodder for the gossip mills in the village.

And she would not be in Aunt Rosa’s good books for a long time, because she had brought and given away her prized pig – for nothing!

Her going places will be zilch, zero.

The only place she was thinking about now was the pig’s hut on the other side of the village. She’d hide there for the duration of the time it takes to bring this child into the world.  So much for the euphoria and the spuinkings.

She swallowed the bile that was retching up in her: from me to you – with love, a graduation present. It was now wrapped up in the prospect of a child and a future that was going terribly wrong.

Change of Attitude

This is an entry for the 2017 Crocodile Prize Competition, Illustration Category by Salvatore Tonou Brere. Salvatore lives in Port Moresby. He is an illustrator and cartoonist.  He works for the South Pacific Post.  Salvatore plans to write Children’s Books. One of his works has been featured in the ‘Traditional Salt Making of Chimbu’

Peer Pressure

This is an entry for the 2017 Crocodile Prize Competition, Illustration Category by Salvatore Tonou Brere. Salvatore lives in Port Moresby. He is an illustrator and cartoonist.  He works for the South Pacific Post.  Salvatore plans to write Children’s Books. One of his works has been featured in the ‘Traditional Salt Making of Chimbu’