: an interview with Betty Chapau
Our mid-week read is the third of our interviews for #MeAPapuaNewGuineanWriter. Hibiscus Three is delighted to feature Betty Chapau in this series, focused on amplifying the talent and evolving work by creative writers of contemporary PNG.
Hibiscus Three: Can you remember the moment you knew that you would
pursue and share your creative writing with others?
Betty Chapau: I began writing creatively, solely because I needed an outlet to pour my heart out, of the things that I was going through in life. It takes courage to be vulnerable in front of others so it took me awhile to share my writing pieces publicly. Eventually when I did, I began to realise how other people could relate and they were expressing how these writing pieces spoke for them as well. It was those moments I knew if writing is God’s gift to me then it is my duty to use this gift to help others feel or be heard even if it just one person. I enjoyed the process; I love the play of words, how it could beautifully be arranged into a simple sentence yet holds an important meaning to it. It was an art I wanted to become good at and knew I had to pursue it.
HT: What do you write about, and what are the common reactions you’ve had from readers?
BC: My writings are inspired and drawn from my own life experiences. In my mind I feel like I’ve been through a lot and often on my own so my pen and paper became my confidant.
I spent most of my 20s living away from PNG so I would write about the highs and lows of being a brown skin girl immersed in a totally different culture. I was raised by parents who instilled in me the values of appreciating my cultural heritage which has inspired my writings where I speak of my love for my home and culture. As a young woman navigating my way through life, finding love and finding my own individuality has enriched the content of writing pieces as well. Even though no two life journeys are the same, other readers’ reactions has taught me that we all share sentiments of wanting to be appreciated, wanting to live a life of purpose and we’ve all been hurt and we all feel love.
HT. What piece of writing of yours are you most proud of, and can you briefly outline its message and its significance to you?
Back in mid-2019, I decided to enter the Crocodile Prize Competition with my essay, “Bare Feet in Heels”. In my essay, I expressed the challenges of being a modern-day Papua New Guinean woman trying to keep the balance between respecting her cultural heritage and at the same time adapt to a world that is constantly evolving with time. I talked about how our society most often has this foretold notion rooted in this undeveloped cultural belief on how a PNG woman’s life should unfold. Thus, when we decide to go against the grain of following cultural norms and go with our own desires it often displeases society. I outlined how quality formal education can somewhat help resolve this misunderstanding and become a bridge that can help us preserve cultural practices that are valuable to keep while adapting new ones. I wrote from my experiences but it became more significant to me when I realised it was a common sentiment that other PNG women also shared.
You may read Bare Feet in Heels here: https://barefeetinheels.wordpress.com/2020/07/01/bare-feet-in-heels/
HT: If you had to sustain your creativity with only 3 books for the rest of your life, what would these books be?
BC: 1. Love Looks Pretty on You by Lang Leav
2. Signs in the Sky by Kumalau Tawali
3. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
HT: What is the one thing you can’t do without when going to write?
B: I would have to say, a Thesaurus.
HT: Encouraging a thriving literary culture of writers and readers in Papua New Guinea – what does this look like to you?
BC: Encouraging a thriving literary culture for writers and readers in PNG to me is:
Having access to attend seminars and workshops that will help improve and enhance writing skills.
· More Establishments of Publishing Companies in PNG that provide quality yet affordable publishing services.
· An annual PNG Writing Festival that invites upcoming and established PNG Writers, maybe writers from around the Pacific, showcasing their literary works with varying different themes each year attracting both readers and writers of all ages in PNG.
· Schools in the country encouraging their students to read books and advocating the importance of reading and writing. Stimulating library interior designs that will make students want to hang out more in the library.
· Having access to Book shops that are able to keep an undated collection of books from within PNG and around the world. Encourage a book exchange section that allows you trading your book for another book in the shop.
· PNG Government creating an organisation that advocates, brings awareness and educates the country on the importance of creating and sustaining a thriving literary culture. They can also help market PNG writers and their work and also possibly be the one that organises the PNG Writing Festival every year.
HT: What is the one thing you haven’t written yet that you’d like to eventually get to, and what inspires you to keep this as a goal?
BC:I often write from a Papua New Guinean female perspective about life experiences but I would like my writing to be more about the human experience so men too can also relate to it. I do understand that I can’t exactly speak from a male perspective but I hope my writing can empathize some of their experiences like keeping a balance between our PNG cultural ways and adapting into a modern PNG. Even though their voices are heard, I think for some, their feelings are often suppressed so as not to show weakness. As a human being, communication is important and the lack of it could results in a negative out pour. Therefore, if creative writings can in some way express those feelings then maybe it will help them communicate.
HT: Where can readers find your writing?
BC: Readers can find my writing on WordPress, Instagram and Facebook.
1. Wordpress blog: https://barefeetinheels.wordpress.com/
2. Instagram Account (@pihindras) : https://www.instagram.com/pihindras/
3. Facebook Page (Pihindras) : https://www.facebook.com/Pihindras
Thank you Betty for sharing your thoughts with us as you continue developing as a an extremely talented Papua New Guinean writer. - HT.
Follow and tag @hibiscus.three using #MeAPapuaNewGuineanWriter on Instagram if you have a blog or writing you would like us to read.