Five entries shortlisted for the 2017 Crocodile Prize Chamber of Mines and Petroleum, Essays and Journalism Award

The 2017 Crocodile Prize Essays and Journalism Category received a collection of interesting topics that were written about and sent in. The topics varied greatly. Predictably, a good number of the entries were about Politics, Corruption, Power and Leadership. 2017 was the year of the Papua New Guinea National Elections and so the number of entries talking about this illustrated this. Congratulations to the 5 entries that were shortlisted for the 2017 Crocodile Prize, PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum, Essays and Journalism Category. The shortlisted entrants of the competition come with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Listed below are the titles and the names of entrants considered as winners.

 The Murder by Kepan Kepas Winuan
 The Positive Side of Men by Michael Geketa
 Lack of Readers and Buyers in Papua New Guinea by Jordan Dean
 Her Fight by Evah Kuamin Banige
 Doctors without Medical Borders by William Tau -Vali

The shortlisted literary entries above have been sent to the sponsors who have picked the overall winner. The overall winner will be announced at the Awards Reception event on the 17th February 2018, here in Port Moresby. The brief biographies below illustrate a little bit more about the shortlisted authors.

The Murder by Kepan Kepas Winuan

Kepan Kepas Winuan is a Teacher at the Kudjip Nazarene High School, Kudjip Nazarene Station, Jiwaka Province.

Kepan is currently working on publishing two books and a school magazine. These literary materials are; Book of Synonyms, Developing Writing Skills and School Journal.

Her first book (Book of Homonyms) has been completed. She is now negotiating with Notion Press Publishing Company of India to have it published.

The Positive Side of Men by Michael Geketa

Michael Geketa is employed in the informal economy in Port Moresby, National Capital District, after serving in the Royal Police Constabulary for much of his life. He used to contribute his written work to Kokomo Magazine at Kerevat National High School in 1989 as a student. He also contributed poems to the Weekly Writers Column poetry corner of the National Newspaper since 2009. The 2014 and 2015 Crocodile Prize Anthology included his work, four Poems and two Essays. He has started writing a book of poems and short story. Work has also began for a framework of his biography titled: Thun der over Parkinson Ranges

Lack of Readers and Buyers in Papua New Guinea by Jordan Dean

Jordan Dean works as a Director (until confirmed) of Grants Management Organisation in Port Moresby, NCD. He has been writing as a hobby for over a decade. Several of his poems and short stories have been published on international sites and magazines including: Power Poetry, Dissident Voice Magazine, Creative Talents Unleashed, Tuck Magazine, Micro Poetry, Story Write, Spill Words Literary Press and PNG Attitude.

Jordan has published 4 books: ‘Tattooed Face: A collection of Poems’ (2016), ‘Follow the Rainbow: Selected Poems’ (2016)), ‘Stranger in Paradise & other Short Stories’ (2016)) and ‘Silent Thoughts: Exploring Poetry’’ (2017)). These books are available on Amazon.

Her Fight by Evah Kuamin Banige

Evah Kuamin Banige is an Administration Officer in Lae, Morobe Province.
She is passionate about writing, helping children and advocating for change and development in her community. She wrote: ‘Victims of violence have to rise up and speak out for their own good. I believe I have taken the biggest step to write about my experiences as a woman facing violence through this competition’

She has been writing since her primary school days. She won a prize for the story of her experience of the 1994 Twin Volcanic Eruptions which was published in book of collection of short stories. Part of 4th Year Journalism Thesis was published in the South Pacific Islands Journalism Communication. One of her entry won the 2012 World Health Organization (WHO) Best Award in the Print Category of the PNG Media Awards.

Doctors Without Medical Borders by William Tau -Vali

William Tau-Vali
is a retired public servant who resides at his Motuan Village of Gaire, Central Province. His background is in computing. That’s the area he studied at University but he would like to think of himself these days as an emerging writer. This is his first written work, together with the other two pieces he submitted earlier in the 2017 Crocodile Prize Competition.

Judged 5 Best Poetry Entry for 2017 Crocodile Prize Competition

The following titles below are the 5 winners of the 2017 Crocodile Prize Kina Securities Poetry Category.

The short list of the winning entries came from a long process of filing, culling and judging. Only one more process is left, that is: Selection of the overall winner among the 5 winners as identified by the judges.

The winners for the 2017 Crocodile Prize Kina Securities Poetry Category are the following entries:
Broken and beaten by Leila Parina
He is gagged by Emmanuel Marosi
We need change by Annie Dori
When tomorrow come by Leiao Gerega
Who will by Leiao Gerega

Leila Parina wrote a candid and beautifully stringed group of words into a poetry illustrating violence by those who supposed to love. Leila has been writing since she was 9 years old. She mostly wrote in her private journals. Her first published work was out in 2017. It is called “A paradigm shift” which was featured in the PNG Anthology “My walk to Equality”.

Emmanuel Marosi put together firm and strong verses which was dedicated to Martyn Namorong, a Papua New Guinean Blogger and Anti-Corruption Activist. This was when members of public took to supporting Martyn during the Tomato Head saga. Emmanuel has published several articles on the internet, on blogs and other sites like hub pages. He has been writing since 2012. He is an electrical communications engineer.

Annie Dori weaves together a rather grim scene of situations in PNG that shows societies moving toward destitute and annihilation. The poem therefore calls for change. Annie is currently under the Ok Tedi’s Graduate Program as an Occupational Nursing Officer. She loves working with communities and is passionate about Humanitarian work. She only keeps entries in her private journal. She would not consider herself as a writer or a poet.

Leiao Gerega eloquently paints a crude and bleak world we live in, in the poem ‘Who will’. The question is who will. Her other poem speaks of violence in the most animated and colourful language. Two of her entries were selected by the Judge. Leiao is reporter with South Pacific Post Courier. She loves reading, writing short stories and poems. The shortlisted entry for this year and other poems have always been dedicated her my mother. She started writing as a 10-year-old. Her writings were mostly kept in her diaries. Her first ever published work of two poems are featured in the PNG women’s first Anthology ‘My Walk to Equality’.

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

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.

 

 

 

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’

The Resilient Mother of the Bougainville Crisis by Agnes Rita Maineke

Edited for the blog from an entry for the  2017 Crocodile Prize Competition, Kumul Petroleum Holdings Limited Short Stories Category by Agnes Rita Maineke

Agnes Rita Maineke is from the Tokunutui area of Siwai District in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. She is a teacher by profession who won the 2014 Crocodile Prize Short Story Award for her entry called ‘The Roonou’.

 The Resilient Mother of the Bougainville Crisis

In December 1995, a young woman, twenty-nine years old and pregnant with her first child was caught in the midst and at the height of the Bougainville Crisis. She was one of the Haisi people who were at the time of her pregnancy, living in the Papua New Guinean Defence Force care-centre at the Mission Station near Arawa, called North Solomons Province back then.

Early in the wee hours of the morning of 1st December, a handful of the members of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army entered the care-centre on the pretext of talking about peace. Instead they forced all the civilians to evacuate the care-centre and move into the surrounding jungles. Along with others, this young pregnant woman, with her husband, packed their minimal belongings as speedily as they could and left in haste. Other close and distant relatives also silently and in swiftness left the care-centre as dawn advanced.

As soon as the people reached the safety of the jungle, the Bougainville Revolutionary Army started their onslaught on the Papua New Guinean bunker nearby. Fierce fighting broke out as soon as daylight came. The Defence Force Commander was shot on that morning by the Bougainville Revolutionary Army. The refugees pushed further into the jungle that day to put solid distance between themselves and the gunshot launchers fire coming from the Mission Station. It was decided by the refugees’ elders that they all would travel northwest towards Jarara village. The young pregnant woman carried her bags at her back, besides the child within her womb and walked as softly and swiftly as she can. Fortunately,  for  her,  her  husband  had  not  joined  the  Bougainville Revolutionary  Army. He was by her side and today he shouldered their other household items which she could not carry. As they travelled towards Jarara, they arrived at the Upai River which was experiencing flooding. They retreated to one of the sites of the abandoned bush camps and slept there for the night. Some families huddled together under the stars because the roofs of those houses had already disintegrated. No one had eaten anything that day. The silence of the travelling day became a little louder at night as they all reposed they weary bodies, emotions and spirits.

As soon as daylight came, the refugees broke camp and headed towards Jarara. By then, the flood had subsided and they could cross to the other side of the river. However, the crossing had to be made further downstream and not at the usual place. They were fearful of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army who had set up camp at the Jarara. They crossed without much misfortune, arriving at a hamlet at the mouth of the Pu’u River toward the middle of the day. It was there that the refugees decided to separate. The young pregnant woman and her husband with five other families headed to a relative’s home along the banks of the Ororo River. This was a secluded place out of sight from both the Papua New Guinea Defence Force and the Bougainville Revolutionary Army. It was learnt by the travelling refugees that there was a small group of Bougainville Revolutionary Army’s camped nearby.

So the refugees settled at Masapiri. There were two other pregnant women in that group that camped at Masapiri. These three pregnant women were fortunate to have a big double sized mattress to sleep on. They shared the tiny space of that mattress unashamedly but with sheer gratefulness. The mattress came by way of another member of their group, an old woman who had carried her mattress from the care-centre they had left that morning a day ago.  They soon settled into a routine village life in their hideaway at Masapiri.  As time passed, the pregnancy terms were encroaching onto the birthing date. On the night of the 24th of January 1996, the young pregnant woman felt the first pangs of childbirth. The young pregnant woman thought she had to defecate when she felt the childbirth contractions, this pregnancy being her first. She woke one of her fellow moms-to-be, but this other pregnant woman also being her first experience could not explain anything to her.

The young pregnant woman’s Aunt instructed her to leave Masapiri and go to another camp closer to the river called Kunnaha, when dawn broke into a lively sunny day. This was because there were no men at that other camp; it was more secluded from the rest of the other crowded camps.  When this young pregnant woman arrived, the older women of that new camp welcomed her and her husband.  The women soon realised that the young woman was going through the process of labour. Several of the women at this camp began giving conflicting instructions.  One of the women instructed her to lie down and rest, belly up and wait for the contractions.  The other woman instructed the young pregnant woman to walk around so as to induce and fast track the process of contraction. Others told her to swim in the river and rest.  Of course there were no doctors, operating clinics, aid posts or trained birth attendants anywhere. They were in the jungles hiding from the Papua New Guinea Defence Force and the Bougainville Revolutionary Army.

The first day of labour passed, nightfall arrived silently through whispers but still the baby refused to leave its mother. The poor young woman experienced several painful contractions. She did not expect the pain and did not know what to do but to scream.  She could not scream so all she did was bite into hard wood and grabbed hold of the woman’s hand which she clutched and squeezed into a mangled pulp.  It was her first and a first for everyone in a very new situation.  During the night, an old midwife was fetched from another camp nearby, to assist the pregnant young woman. This midwife tried several traditional labour pain remedies.  The herbs that were gathered and used which had worked well for many mothers previously were not effective for this poor young pregnant woman. Her elder sister together with her children arrived at Kunnaha on hearing about the birth complications of her sister.

On the third day of the labour process, on 26th January, a local Aid Post Orderly was called by the young pregnant woman’s husband from a bush camp further away. This Aid Post Orderly arrived in the midst of the night.  He proceeded directly to attend to the suffering young pregnant woman. His diagnosis was not good news to everyone. He stated that the baby was not yet due.  Night came and the contraction pain continued into the third day. The fourth day dawned, the 27th January with less joy but more anxiety and uncertainty. The pregnant young woman’s sister knew that only the Christian God could help her beloved sister and her unborn child and therefore proceeded to offer prayers with intense pleading for mercy.  She prayed with the knowledge that Aid Post Orderly who arrived the previous night to assist her sister was an experienced man and together with God, they could all give birth together.  The Aid Post Orderly stayed with the young pregnant woman as the day turned to noon, then to dusk and then to evening. It was pitched dark, as dark as the pain experienced by the people in the hamlet as they empathised with the young pregnant woman. While the Aid Post Orderly continued to check, the prayers to Almighty God intensified. The elder sister of the young pregnant woman knelt on the ground and stayed there until at eleven o’clock at night, when her prayers were answered.

A lively, screaming and kicking baby boy, full of life and promise came out blaring as loudly as he can to announce to the world his arrival. He was named Keith, almost unceremoniously.  The occasion was mixed. It was more a relief from the long pain and uncertainty felt by everyone in the hamlet. Joy was more an afterthought.  Their mixed feelings about the baby quickly diverted to anxiousness, anxiety, distress and fear about their situation, given that the crisis had heightened. This feeling was in the air, as cobwebs heavy and encapsulating and stifling smiles and life.

News filtered somehow from one care-enters to other care-centres about atrocities committed by the Papua New Guinean Defence Force. One night, five weeks after the birth of Keith, the people in the hamlet were woken up by some young boys who had joined the Home Guards. The Home Guards kept sentry duties for the little hamlets around the region and communicated with the Papua New Guinea Defence Force.  At this time, the Papua New Guinea  Defence Force was about to carry out Operation High Speed 1, so those Home Guards had asked permission to go out, make contact with civilians caught in the crisis and encourage these civilians to go the nearest Papua New Guinea  Defence Force care-centre.

On the 29th February 1996, with her five-week old Keith wrapped up in blankets, the young mother took her place in the midnight procession led by the Home Guards back to the care-centre at the Mission Station. Of course, there was the river again, and it was in flooding again, just like two months ago when they made the crossing.  The refugees could not return to Masapiri in fear of reprisal from Bougainville Revolutionary Army. The Bougainville Revolutionary Army was known to employ various methods of torture to their own people if they felt that the people were listening to the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. The only option was to cross the flooded river.   The father and mother of Keith were both tall so the father held the wrapped baby aloft in his left hand while on his right he held his wife’s hand. Thus, they crossed the flooded river. Everyone was told to gather at a deserted hamlet on the outskirts of the Mission Care-centre as they neared their destination. When they were all gathered at a haus-wind a bonfire was lit. This was the signal agreed upon by the Papua New Guinea Defence Force and the Home Guards to signal that they were returning with their relatives or civilians.  Everyone  had  to  hold  a  fire  stick  or  wood  as  they  re-entered the care-centre that they had left three months earlier. As they arrived, they were commanded to line up in front of the army. The previous day, the army had brutally tortured and killed a civilian and so they were in a foul temper. Little Keith and his parents had to be accommodate with four other families in a small house  because  their  house  in  the  care-centre  had  been  burnt  on  the  night  of  the  1st of December 1995, during the battle between the Bougainville Revolutionary Army and the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. Five months after their return to the Mission Station care-centre , all the people were told that they were now moving to another care-centre at Tonu, further south of Haisi. This was in preparation for Operation High Speed 2 which was to have been carried out by mercenaries from South Africa called Sandline.

 

 

Five month old Keith had to move again in the middle of the night. They left Haisi at eleven o’clock in the night. The exodus moved so slowly that night because it was dark and that the road had become overgrown. Several women and men cut through the overgrown bushes with machetes as they trekked through. The young mother clasped little Keith in her bosom while on her back she carried some of their personal items. Keith’s father put all their belongings in a wheelbarrow and pushed it all the way to Tonu. They arrived at Tonu early the next morning at about seven o’clock. The journey took eight hours, whereas today if one travels by foot one can complete the journey in four hours. The cycle began anew:  new houses, new routines, and new gardens for each family.  Little Keith learnt to walk while at Tonu care-enter. The family moved two more times during the crisis. Keith survived five different moves from the womb to his home at Kaamoi. When peace was finally established, Keith went to school at Haisi Primary School. He went on to Tonu High School to complete grade ten. Today Keith is 20 years old and is attending Vuna Bosco Technical Secondary School at Kokopo, East New Britain Province, Papua New Guinea.

Message From Chairman

Greetings everyone, and welcome back to the Crocodile Prize Blog and Home.

We are excited to launch The Crocodile Prize Competition 2017, but not just yet.

Before we launch, we will announce the 2016 Competition winners. The official Crocodile Prize 2016 Award Ceremony will be held on the 16th of February at the Australian High Commission Grounds, Port Moresby, NCD.

We are excited that we were able to select the winners using a very rigorous and a transparent process of culling and then judging. We believe our highlight for 2016 would have been institutionalising INTEGRITY into our systems and process of administering the Crocodile Prize in Papua New Guinea. Having registered a legal entity to operate under gives Crocodile Prize a strong platform to stand on for future years. The committee has also secured two major sponsors, Kina (K10,000) and SP Holdings (K10,000) and we have introduced “Emerging Young Writer Award”, sponsored by Abt & Associate. You will also be pleased to know that we will have three prize winners from each category – not just one.  As of today, we have all the winners identified from the eight categories.  The categories and their sponsors are:

Kina –Poetry

SP Holdings Ltd – Illustrations

Abt and Associate-Emerging Young Writer

PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum – Essay and Journalism

Kumul Petroleum Holding – Short Stories

Paga Hill Development – Writing for Children

Cleland Family – Heritage Writing

MRDC –Women in Writing

We will start announcing the Short Story winners tomorrow and will continue with all the categories each day on this blog. All winners will be contacted directly by the committee.

Next week, Crocodile Prize representatives will be on the NBC radio to talk about the the competition.  Please tune in to listen to winners, judges and committee members speak about the 2016 competition and this year’s launching.

We would like to sincerely thank all our sponsors for their support.

Thank you writers and friends of Crocodile Prize.  Let’s make 2017 a big year. Write those stories!  – Chairman, Emmanuel Peni.

Ikin-yal’s Backyard Revelation – Short Story

Ikin-yal’s Backyard Revelation – Short Story

PNC Goroka
Election campaigns in Papua New Guinea draw large crowds. This is one campaign at PNC Goroka.

Story and picture by Bomai Witne

Why should these people brave the hot sun, to sit and listen to one person? Who is this guy? My thoughts ran wild as I watched from the distance. It was in Goroka town, Papua New Guinea on the weekend.

The speaker had a white stained shirt with long sleeves. The shirt was probably stained with the same betelnut that filled his mouth as he spoke. He puffed one cigarette after another and moved his mobile phone quickly between his mouth and ears. He rambled loudly to someone on the phone. We could only hear his voice.

Each time, he pretended to listen and responded loudly. He wanted everyone around him to hear his conversation. The man was surrounded by a small crowd. Those around him, almost a hundred, controlled their movements and conversations as to not disturb him.

The look on their faces suggested the people in the crowd had neither eaten a proper meal nor slept in the last few days. The sun’s heat was strong enough to hang thick in the air, and melt dirt on these people. The man in the white shirt kept talking for almost two hours. I observed from where I waited. The crowd knew how to wait too. They seemed trained. They chewed betel nut and smoked their rolled tobacco.  The sun’s heat, the sweat and the hunger were not important. The members of this audience would have been good candidates for military or Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary. They were showing signs of great loyalty to the man on the phone.

The man demanded the attention of the people after two hours. He told them that he had been talking to his boss in Lae, and added that his assignment to Goroka recently to take a junior public service position was a clever and calculated action by his boss. He said his boss had given him the position so he could stay close to his people and campaign for the 2017 national election. The crowd became alive and cheered. They yelled and laughed. They looked at each other and looked at the hopeful candidate, nodding in agreement. They savored this small ‘insight’ with anticipation. Obviously, they nodded to each other to say all their dedication is paying off.

The man in the white shirt started again on the mobile phone. He stopped between his talk to chew betelnut and puff cigarettes. He pretended to get angry at callers on his phone. He told the crowd, the callers were deliberately disturbing him from talking to his people.

He assured the crowd that he would work at his new post in Goroka for six months and resign to contest the election. The people cheered again. He asked for the team leader of the group to come forth and handed him a K100 cash.

“Go and get some scones and cordial for your people”, the candidate ordered.

“Don’t forget betel nut and brus”, someone in the crowd shouted as the team leader was on his way out.

The candidate called another person from the crowd and handed him a bundle of cash and mentioned that it was for transport and beers for the men who braved the hot sun. The people rose in unison and hugged the candidate. The womenfolk also went up to hug the candidate for the men’s beer money.

As they waited for ‘lunch’ to arrive, the candidate went into a building close to the meeting yard and came out with another man. This second character was dirtier and fatter than himself.  The second man appeared drunk but he was forced him to talk to the crowd. The fat guy introduced himself and gave another K100 to the people and referred to his friend in the white shirt as the ‘right man’ for the job. The people cheered and spoke to each other in their own language.

After a few minutes, a bushy moustache middle aged man with a cowboy hat emerged. He wore a dirty pair of jeans that was rolled to his knees. He introduced himself as the ‘young leader’ of his people and spoke.

“My people are always loyal to whoever they support in election. This is the first time Ikin-yal, a prominent public serviceman invited us to talk to his people, and we are thankful and will always be loyal to them.”

It was only then did I realized that the man in the white shirt was called Ikin-yal, and he was inviting groups of people from his electorate to the backyard of his office to reveal his intention to contest for his electorate in the 2017 Papua New Guinea national election.