: an interview with Betty Wakia
New week, new interview! Hibiscus Three caught up with writer and long-time literary project volunteer, Betty Wakia , for the #MeAPapuaNewGuineanWriter series,
Hibiscus Three: Can you remember the moment you know that you would pursue and share your creative writing with others?
Betty Wakia: Some people start writing as a hobby but as for me, it all started as a therapy. Yes, therapy that’s right! I went through a traumatic experience when I was 9 years old, so writing helps me to overcome those pain. I’ve often find myself withdrawing from people, being 'in my own world' so I note down what I felt about myself each day on an old exercise books.
I’ve always had a passion to share my writing but in those days, there was no writing platform that you would share your creative writing. It all began in 2014 when I found out the Crocodile Prize, the National Literacy competition.
HT: What do you write about and what are the common reactions you’ve had from readers?
BW: Well, what do I write about? This is one of the questions I generally thought of when I first picked up the pen when I was a kid. It is still a question that I ask myself each day and coming up with a topic to write about was one of the hardest things I had to do. I had to consider a lot of factors before I chose a topic I could work with. The important thing that made me overcome these factors is that: “There are no rules in writing”.
That’s when I started writing about tradition and culture and history of my place because most of the stories and legends are not written down so I try my best to capture them in my writings. I do write about women issues in PNG and currently am into writing about education and technology and its effect in the country.
One of my greatest reaction moments was when I got a message from a reader, who was not satisfied with one of my article. Yes, I was glad he got to an unhappy part. In fact, he pretty much told me off for having the story goes in that direction. He was so involved in my article and was angry with me. I loved it.
As a writer, I want to get readers’ reactions. Even if they are angry at me, getting reactions is good. Because it means they were into the story and they were part of it. They owned the story and therefore they are reading it. Too many writers think that only high praise is the reaction they want.
HT: What piece of writing of yours are you most proud of, and can you briefly outline its message and its significance to you?
BW: There are two pieces of my writing that am most proud of and they are;
· Datagaliwabe, the great God – progenitor of the Hela nation :
· The Baya Baya legend: Messiah-like myths amongst the Huli & Foe
Both of these stories are unique in the heart of Hela and fore told all throughout the Hela province. It is a legend that has been passing down from generation to generation and people feared that these legends might be connected to the story of Jesus.
These two stories are so significance and strictly fore told by only men in the men’s house. Women were not allowed to hear or share these stories. I was so privileged to hear this stories from my father, who is also connected to the legends.
HT: If you had to sustain your creativity with only 3 books for the rest of your life, what would these books be?
i. My Walk to Equality, the first Papua New Guinean women authored book edited by Rashmii Amoah Bell
ii. Playing the Game: Life and Politics in Papua New Guinea by Sir Julius Chan
iii. Survivor: Alive in Mum’s loving Arms by Daniel Kumbon.
HT: What is the one thing you can’t do without when going to write?
BW: Glasses- being short-sighted from a young age, I can’t do without them when I write.
HT: Encouraging a thriving literary culture of writers and readers in Papua New Guinea-what does this look like to you?
BW: In the next five years, I would like more Papua New Guineans reading PNG authored books, and would like those books to be distributed by PNG government throughout the schools in the country.
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?
BW: Genealogy is one of the things that I haven’t written yet and I would like to eventually start writing it. As I come from Hela and it’s currently dealing with the multi million Kina LNG project like Hides, Juha and Muruk and one of the important thing to identify those land is through the genealogy. Otherwise, you won’t claim those land as yours. This has inspired me to keep this as a goal.
HT: Where can readers find your writing?
BW: Readers can find my writings on my Blog and Social Media accounts below;
Hela Wane – https://helawane.blogspot.com/
PNG Women Writers and Authors – https://m.facebook.com/pngwomenwriters
School Writing Project – https://m.facebook.com/SchoolWritingProject/
Betty Wakia – https://www.facebook.com/bwakia
Betty Gabriel Wakia – https://twitter.com/bettywakia
Thank you Betty for sharing your thoughts with us as you continue developing your writing as a 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
image: Hela Wane Blog by Betty Wakia