PGIR 2 students studying PNG Literature through the staging of Drama


PGIR 2 students who will be staging The Sun and Which Way Big Man on Saturday 03 June in SVDMA                                                                       Picture taken after their third rehearsal


In Papua New Guinea (PNG), the country is known for its tradition of oral literature. Oral literature existed and continues to exist even after written literature was introduced through poetry, plays, short stories and novel publication by PNG and overseas writers. This happened prior to PNG gaining independence when the writing scene was actively promoted and effective in communicating messages about the way those writers interpreted what was happening around them. But after independence writing slowly and eventually died out. For what reasons, we do not know but we are sure the PGIR year two students will tell us what some of the reasons may be.

In order to appreciate PNG oral and contemporary literature, the Department of PNG Studies and International Relations (PGIR) at Divine Word University offers a unit called ‘PNG Literature’ (PG107). The unit is taken by students in their second year of study.

This year, 2017, the PG107 unit lecturer is Professor Maretta Kula-Semos and she is assisted by Ms Calista Hamadi, who is being mentored to teach the unit on her own in 2018.

‘In this unit, students look at PNG literature tracing its roots from the oral literary tradition to modern or contemporary PNG society’, says Professor Kula-Semos. ‘The students are exposed to the various literary genres to help them appreciate and understand what the PNG writing scenario was like, what challenges writers faced, and why PNG literature is dying out. There is need to resurrect it’, she elaborated.

In this unit, students are required to demonstrate their critical thinking, reading, writing, and presentation skills. Language and literacy skills can be improved through the teaching of literature. ‘Students are expected to apply the theories learnt outside of classroom in their interaction with others and to demonstrate these through practical activities, like engaging in debates and through performative literature or drama. Dramatizing can be a motivation or bonus to their learning’, says Professor Kula-Semos.  

On the 3rd of June 2017 at SVDMA, the PGIR year two (PGIR2) students will be staging two plays: ‘The Sun’ by Arthur Jawodimbari and ‘Which Way, Big Man?’ by Nora Vagi-Brash. Both Plays were written by PNG writers and have meaningful thoughts behind each.


Image: PG107 cast of The Sun during a recent evening rehearsal in SVDMA

‘What you are seeing tonight is the practical outcome of what PGIR2s have been learning in the classroom’, said Professor Kula-Semos.

So far, the students have done three rehearsals for both plays. During their third rehearsal, students were fantastic because of the music and sound effects played in the background.

‘This group of students are very cooperative and enthusiastic and after the third rehearsal, everyone has already gained much confidence’, Professor Kula-Semos commented.

Students are already looking forward to the staging of the two dramas as it will be part of their unit major assessment, as well as, a fundraising drive for the 2018 Open Day since these students will take the lead on behalf of the department.