Tag Archives: The Crocodile Prize

The Song of the Turtle – Children’s Story


Winner of the Paga Hill Development Company Award for Writing for Children in The 2015 Crocodile Prize.

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JK.Leahy© Illustration in Pen on paper. 2015.

The Song of the Turtle – ©JK.Leahy Children’s Story

THE night was still and dark. Dogs did not bark. The wind blew gently.

Children and babies had stopped crying and laid their heads to rest. Even the night birds were silent around the coastal Morobe village.

Below the whistle of the gentle breeze, Kalem heard a song. It was soft, beautiful and so sad it almost made her cry. It sounded very familiar.

Lying still on her woven pandanus mat that grandma made for her, she searched through her memories – where has she heard this song? Her grandma had passed away last year. She missed her. After tossing and turning for what seemed like forever, Kalem knew she had to find out.

She picked up her mother’s torch. Beside the torch was a piece of hard shell, a turtle shell she found on the beach. She kept it for good luck. Suddenly she remembered – the song! It was the song of the turtles. Their nesting time happens near Kalem’s birthday, but they have not come to her village for a long time.

Tonight, something was wrong. Grandma said only the mother turtle sang the turtle song. No one in the village knew that song except her grandmother, mother and now her. Grandma sung and taught the song to Kalem while they were fishing. “Who is singing it now?” Kalem wondered.

Afraid but excited, Kalem headed to the beach. As she walked, she remembered Grandma’s words: “Our people are connected to the ocean, we fish to survive but we must respect the lives in the ocean. We must never kill for nothing.”

Not many people can connect to the animals and fish, but grandma said their family had a special gift because their ancestors came from the sea and are tied to the ways of the sea. Kalem walked quickly along the beach as she listened for the song.

“If you ever hear the song Kalem, you know, Mother Turtle needs you”, her grandmother told her. When Kalem was born in the turtle season, grandma told her mother – “this girl would one day meet Mother Turtle”.

Kalem followed the song out of her village and along the shores, further and further away from her house. Her heart beat faster when she arrived at the river where the villagers washed. Where the river met the sea, villagers set fishing nets along the shoreline. Kalem heard a loud splash. She slowly stepped forward, flashing the torch.

Tied to a large driftwood stump on the beach was a long, green fishing net. On the calm water surface, a big red buoy floated just offshore, and at the end of the net.

Something had been caught in the net. The thing splashed again. It rippled and frothed the seawater in a circle. It was large, dark and nearby the shore. It did not look like any fish or crocodile Kalem knew.

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Photo Digital illustration image JKLeahy ©

When she flashed the torch at the dark shape, she was shocked to find a very large sea turtle tangled in the net. It was so large, Kalem was sure it must have been the mother of all turtles. Kalem flashed the torch on the water.

She could see smaller turtles floating about, their heads bobbing in the water. The turtles circled the net. They were all making strange noises like they were crying too. The mother turtle was bigger than Kalem’s ten-year-old body, but Kalem had to try save to her.

Even with no strength left, the mother turtle kept singing her song. Weakly, her tired flippers hit the net and her voice faded to almost a whisper. Kalem’s tears flowed down as she waded through the water quickly and tried to set the turtle free. After struggling with the net and the weight of the turtle, Kalem ran back to the village and woke her mother.

“Help, wake up!” Kalem cried. “It’s Mother Turtle – we must help her”.

Kalem’s mother was confused. Often she thought her daughter was a daydreamer. After Kalem calmed herself and explained, she grabbed her mother’s arm and led her back to the beach. They took a knife and cut the net to set the mother turtle free. The large turtle swam up to Kalem and her mother. She bumped them with her nose before she and the other turtles disappeared into the deep, dark waters.

Kalem remembered grandma telling her about the life of the mother turtle. Grandma said it took many years before the turtle was ready to make babies. Every two or three years, the mother turtle leads her group to her own nesting beach, where she was born. Sometimes she travelled long distances to get there. Usually she would lay over a hundred eggs, but only a few survived.

Other animals, people and large fish eat the eggs and baby turtles. Kalem’s people loved eating turtle eggs and meat. Their village was once a nesting ground for turtles. Lately, less and less turtles have come to lay eggs. Standing silently in the dark with her mother, Kalem thought of how scared the turtles were tonight.

“They might never return…we must teach our people to protect the turtles”, she whispered to her mother.

“I am so proud of you Kalem. The turtles will head to a safe place to lay their eggs. Maybe this was not the right place for them, but they will find a perfect home some day”.

Her mother held Kalem close as they headed back to the village.

Crocodile Prize Anthology cover

The Crocodile Prize 2015 Anthology is out on Amazon

The Song of the Turtle – A Winner in the Crocodile Prize


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The Song of the Turtle – JK.Leahy Illustration, 2015. Pen and Ink on paper.

My entry into the The Crocodile Prize, Papua New Guinea’s National Literature Awards,  won the children’s category. “The Song of the Turtle” is a fiction based on events that happened when I was growing up in Wagang Village, Lae, Papua New Guinea. I will post the story here, tomorrow.

I had watched turtle eggs being found and gathered on our beach and watched sea turtles captured and eaten. Today, the large sea turtles do not lay on our beach anymore.

Across the Huon Gulf on coastline Labu, turtles are being protected and a certain coastline has been declared as a protected habitat. The locals are part of the turtle protection programme. I am glad this has happened. Read More on the Labu Turtle project here.

I hoped that “The Song of the Turtle” will teach Papua New Guinea children about how important it is to care for wild-life and wild-life habitat in our country. PNG is lucky to have so many beautiful species and with effects of climate change and human development, numbers of species and wildlife habitat is becoming fewer and soon, some will disappear forever.

There were over 800 entries in the Crocodile Prize this year. 160 entries including The Song of the Turtle has been published in the 2015 Crocodile Prize Anthology. It is on sale on Amazon.

Crocodile Prize Anthology cover

Crocodile Prize Anthology 2015

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Writers from across PNG are 2015 Prize winners

Keith Jackson & Friends PNG Attitude

WRITERS from seven provinces feature in the nine prizes awarded in this year’s Crocodile Prize – Papua New Guinea’s national literary awards.

And one of the winners, 20-year old medical student Hazel Kutkue, not only won the Martens’ Award for Young Writers but the national short story prize – a prodigious achievement at such an early age and against some very stiff competition.

The Ok Tedi Mining Award for Book of the Year saw Baka Bina’s Man of Calibre triumph in a strong field of 10 contenders while the inaugural SP Brewery Award for Illustration went to another Eastern Highlander, Emmanuel Landu, brother of two-time Crocodile Prize winner, poet Lapieh Landu.

Other provinces represented in the prize winners are Enga, Simbu, Milne Bay, Morobe, Madang and the National Capital District.

The other winners include Philip Kaupa Gena (poetry), Busa Wenogo (essay), Joycelin Leahy (writing for children), Ronnie Dotaona (heritage) and Daniel Kumbon (tourism, arts & culture).

The writers’ ages range from 20 to 56, averaging 36, and their professions include economist, teacher, court officer, journalist, artist and student.

In the following section we present the names and profiles of the winners and links to their winning entries together with the judges’ comments.

PNG Literary Competition Achieves Record Entries.


The Papua New Guinea Literary Competition The Crocodile Prize received the highest number of entries ever, this year.  On closing last night the Crocodile Prize fetched a total 826 entries from 132 writers & illustrators.

Poetry 355; Essay 196; Story 129; Children 52; Heritage 48; Illustration 21; Tourism Arts Culture 15; Book of the Year 10.

These numbers may not sound very much for writers in other countries, but for any Papua New Guinean writer, it is a very heart-warming news, especially coming from a literary culture that almost became extinct. In the early 70s, leading up to the country’s independence, passion for art, culture and heritage including the literary pursuits and publishing of works written by PNG writers were at their peak. It is not quite clear why the interests have fallen so much after independence. That culture may have been used because we were proud of our identity and we wanted independence so much or perhaps the general growth of consumerism and the wider issues of social, economic and political changes have contributed to this new – lack of passion of culture. I remember growing up with radio stories written by PNG writers, attending and being part of stage plays – written by PNG writers. Poetry, stories, essays as well as other forms of literary work were promoted and supported by the national government.

The lack of passion in the arts and the literary support to me is quite surprising and sad; our culture is based on oral history and story-telling.

As a PNG writer, a practicing artist and an arts curator, it seems very clear to me, that the PNG government’s priority is elsewhere and not the least in the arts. But to not even support the literary aspect and especially in developing educational content that is relevant to our children and educational for our people is wrong. We cannot just tell stories and pass them on – now we can write them down and keep for many years.

It is not how much minerals we export and logs we sell, but the natural beauty, our rich art, culture, languages and stories that set PNG apart, and gives us our unique identity.  The literary scene dwindled to almost non-existent, although that could have been easily combined with and taught through the education system. There are not many avenues and support nor funding where PNG writers could train or share their work, and even to sell. Most workshops, training and activities relating to creative writing or any literary work have been Aid funded or Privately sponsored in the past four decades. Now this is how things have started to change for the PNG literary scene.

THE CROCODILE PRIZE STORY
The Crocodile Prize was established in 2010 by Phil Fitzpatrick and Keith Jackson, (both Australians) worked for many years in Papua New Guinea; Fitzpatrick as a patrol officer, Jackson as a broadcaster and journalist.

The Prize evolved from the popular PNG Attitude blog, which has a policy of encouraging and publishing Papua New Guinean contributors.

The concept of a national literary competition was triggered by Fitzpatrick’s concern that creative writing in Papua New Guinea had fallen upon hard times, and that this was a cultural constraint needing to be addressed.

The first awards were presented in 2011, a year of determining whether or not a project of this kind could be managed successfully given geographical, financial and the constraints of a voluntary organisation.

Using PNG Attitude as a vehicle for publicity and initial publication, Fitzpatrick and Jackson soon discovered an enthusiastic and rapidly emerging body of Papua New Guinean writers.

They were assisted greatly in the early stages by material and financial support provided by the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby and later by a range of sponsors, most of them PNG-based.

This backing made it possible for a range of associated activities to be instituted in addition to the Prize, including an awards ceremony, the publication of an annual anthology and the initiation of writers’ forums.

After the first awards in September 2011, it was agreed the Prize should become a permanent part of the literary landscape of PNG. Now under the management of the Crocodile Prize Organisation, COG, 2015 will mark its fifth year of operations.

PHIL FITZPATRICK on 2015 Competition

Thus ends another year of the Crocodile Prize literary contest.

IT’S not every day that you get to influence the revival of literature in a whole country, unintentionally or otherwise.

I must admit to some surprise that it has happened at all. What started as a humble writing competition seems to have bloomed beyond all expectations.

There is a sense of pride in what has happened but, strangely, it’s not personal. Rather it is a sense of pride in the achievements of the writers involved.

At a personal level it has been more of a humbling experience. There is also a sense of awe and enrichment.

The enrichment comes from reading the works submitted to the competition and the sheer learning experience involved.

I think, despite nearly fifty years travelling back and forth to the country, I’ve really only learned to understand Papua New Guinea in the last few years of the Crocodile Prize.

There is also a tinge of anger involved, mostly through the fact that an uninterested government and lackadaisical education system could let such a promising and rich cultural emergence in the 1970s wilt on the vine and become moribund.

That aside, one of the ironies I really enjoy is the fact that the revival has only now been possible because of the advent of digital technologies that were supposed to see the demise and eventual extinction of books. Such are the shaky prognostications of the doomsayers.

The key factors in the Papua New Guinean revival have been the Internet and the availability of digital publishing and print-on-demand technologies.

These have underpinned the Crocodile Prize, firstly by providing a writers’ outlet in the form of PNG Attitude and secondly in offering a cheap way to publish the best in an annual anthology and then to go even further in publishing stand-alone individual books by Papua New Guineans.

The future of literature in Papua New Guinea is starting to look rosy but we need to remind ourselves that it is still extremely fragile.

The disastrous complacency of the 2013 competition organisers reminds us of what could still happen.

2014-15 has been a watershed year and there’s light at the end of the tunnel but sustainability is still a long way off and we aren’t there yet by any stretch of the imagination.

The winners of this year’s Crocodile Prize will be announced early September. The awards event will be held in Kundiawa on Saturday 19 September

Keith Jackson & Friends: PNG Attitude

Tribes from “I am a Temptress” Poem


A section from a free verse I have submitted for The Crocodile Prize: Papua New Guinea National Literary Awards

Tribes ©JK.Leahy

Tribes

Innocent children

New generation manufactured

Wear insanity clots in their brains

Pride and hate chokes their virtue

Tall, brave, strong the powerful warriors

Weak, tiny, gentle, still vow quiet achievers

Education’s location teaches disparity

Traditions and rituals are fading colours

Ancestors cringe and weep in graves

Chanting laments, many rhythms

Echoing songs 300 tongues

Traditions decomposed

Decrees derail

Lost

Click here to see other entries: The Crocodile Prize

The Hillside Find – A short story entry in Crocodile Prize.


The Hillside Find is a short story I wrote when I first started blogging  over a year ago.  It is based on my life as a young journalist working in my first job in Papua New Guinea’s leading daily, The Post Courier.

I have entered this story in the PNG’s annual literature competition which closes on June 30th. If you are interested, please visit also the two links below to see other entries from PNG writers. I will post my second entry tomorrow. The word limit is 1000 words.

The Crocodile Prize

Keith Jackson & Friends: PNG Attitude

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Peter John Tate picture of a Kone settlement, Port Moresby

 

The Hillside Find

Joycelin Kauc Leahy© for Crocodile Prize Short Story

We climbed together, side by side. Chief Superintendent Roy Tiden and I stepped through the tall kunai grass and up the rocky Ranuguri hillside. The mid afternoon sun fought with its last strength, throwing an orangey tinge on the grass and on vibrant houses on the hillside. Ranuguri is in Konedobu. Below, the sound of traffic in Kone died down as we moved further up. It was a Tuesday in February 1985; the year Papua New Guinea would celebrate its ten years of independence from Australia. It was also the year the country recorded the highest crime rate in Port Moresby. Solving crimes excited me. At nineteen, and reporting for PNG’s leading daily, life was never dull.

My mother had called the night before from Lae, asking me to bring my little brother to Port Moresby and care for him. I was the eldest of four and Rivona was turning eleven. Port Moresby crime figures were escalating and living here was hardly safe enough for me. I wondered how a historical government post such as Kone boasting the best harbour and a bustling business centre could also be afflicted with such a high crime rate. In the newsroom the talk was that a state of emergency would be declared for Port Moresby. I stopped briefly to wait for Supt Tiden. As he got closer, I continued climbing.

I wanted to care for my brother, knowing how hard it was for my mother with three young children. But I was afraid journalism work would keep me away for long hours. This was my first job, and I wanted to do well. Maybe I could also bring my grandmother, so she could help me with my brother. With my mind absorbed, I didn’t realise I’d left the superintendent behind. Glancing down at him for directions, Supt Tiden pointed to the top of the hill. I headed there with my bag and notebook, stepping carefully over the loose gravel and scattered boulders.

Down the hillside, Mr Tiden’s blue uniform showed through the green swaying Kunai grass. Further past him I could see some of the old colonial buildings. Colourful clothes danced on makeshift lines and smoke escaped from open fires. Next to the police headquarters other old buildings had been converted into the mining department offices. Several dozen vehicles were parked there. I brushed the sweat off my forehead and wiped it on my skirt.

When I got the call, Mr Tiden had mentioned a rise in death amongst gang members, especially young boys. He said he’d been called out a week ago to a crime scene where the body had already decomposed. While moving the remains onto a stretcher, the rotting arm dropped onto the superintendent, and as it brushed him the fingernails came off. Thinking of that story and what we might discover today, I felt nauseous. I wanted to get it over and done with and return to the comforts of the Post Courier newsroom.  My workmates there have become my second family, away from my hometown Lae.

I neared the hilltop. Supt Tiden was several meters downhill. His large body restricted his speed up the hillside. He’d started puffing at the foot of Ranuguri and joked about racing me to the top, making light our reason for being there. By then he was already an astute detective with over 20 years of police work.

With the incident report descriptions of the crime location, I figured I would see a crime scene near where I stood. I expected the obvious: signs of damage to the land surface, a scrap of bloody clothing, and any kind of evidence. “Maybe, I am ON the scene,” I whispered to myself. The hairs on my skin stood. At my feet the ground was bare and uneven with rough limestone.

I called out, “Mr Tiden!’ Mr Tiden!” Out of respect I always referred to the superintendent as Mr Tiden. I could hear the wind blowing my voice down the valley. No response. My throat dried up as I hugged myself.

I looked around and across the hilltop trying to see where the sound of buzzing flies came from. I didn’t want to step on anything or anyone. I could not even see those damn flies, but I heard them very close. A crow soared and two others joined the circle, just metres above me. I held my notepad tight. I pulled my bag up to my chest and smelt the leather. Inside it were my no-brand cinnamon lipstick, an extra pen, a bunch of keys and the police issue can of chemical mace. Mr Tiden said I might need it one day.

“The mace!” I almost said out loud. But what help would it be? Apart from spurts of kunai, there was nothing else here. Whatever there was would not be too hard to find, but my legs refused to take me further. I waited. The flies buzzed and the grass shooed. I wished the police helicopter would blast up the hillside and break the silence.

I was about to call Mr Tiden again when I heard muffled cursing and knew he had arrived. “There you are, Joycelin.”

“Am I in the right place?”

“You are! That is great detective work,” he answered cheerfully.

I pretended to smile.

“Come this way.” He started turning down the opposite side of the hill then halted suddenly.

I walked up to him and looked down. Stretched out before us was a boy’s body. He had three large rocks weighing him down – on the neck, the abdomen and the legs. The head had a massive dent and the rock on his neck was covered in blood. “He can’t be more than 11 or 12 years old,” said Supt Tiden after a complete circuit around the body. I had not moved yet.

Supt Tiden looked up at me, waiting for a reaction. The only thing running through my head was my brother, Rivona.

It could have been him, I thought.


Thank you Isabel for all your help.  This story is a tribute to Chief Supt Roy Tiden and also my brother, Rivona who are both no longer with us. Roy died years later and Rivona lived to be a young man in Port Moresby. Almost 20 years later and two weeks before his 32nd birthday, Rivona died suddenly.