Me, A Papua New Guinean Writer

: an interview with Jaythy Kekeya

Continuing with our introductory interview series: Me, A Papua New Guinean Writer, we caught up with Jaythy Kekeya.

Readers who engage with Hibiscus Three's Instagram Stories will know Jaythy's poetry via creative page @tomoriccy, whose work we often share. We are big fans of Jaythy's writing (and artwork)!

Hibiscus Three: Can you remember the moment you knew that you would pursue and share your creative writing with others?

Jaythy Kekeya: The moment I realized I could write was at ten years old, which was the age I grew fond of reading. I would see the authors of the books I read as extraordinary, phenomenal, and magical. The way they articulated and wrote their books made me believe that magic and superpowers only exist from books and writings. I never really thought about pursuing writing until I was fourteen. I started writing at twelve years old but I was more focused on it during my adolescent years. I started writing songs and raps which eventually evolved into poetry.

When I started writing my poems, I only shared them with my family (my siblings) and my close friends. It wasn’t until early 2020 that I decided to share my poetry on my Instagram account. I was anxious at first but the more poems I shared, I gained the confidence to share my writing with a wide range of audiences.

HT: What do you write about, and what are the common reactions you’ve had from readers?

JK: I write poems about mental health. Most of my writings are based on my experiences and observations of self-love, self-acceptance, friendships, relationships, and family affairs. Usually, when I tell people I write poems, they always associate it with “romantic love” but when they read my poems, they say it’s dark and depressing. I take that as a compliment because that is the focus of most of my writings. I am yet to write a poem about peace and happiness which I hope to do one day.

HT: What piece of writing of yours are you most proud of, and can you briefly outline its message and its significance to you?

JK: There are many poems I am proud of and love to read over and over again. But the one I find myself visiting every now and then is titled Insanity :

This poem was written in 2020 which was during one of my toughest and darkest times. At that time, I was depressed and suicidal. I remember sitting in the living room, at midnight, typing out each and every word with all the negative emotions that were bottled up.

The poem is about what it’s like when one enters the severe stage of depression and eventually enters suicidal mode. At that time, I saw everything as pointless. Life had no meaning at all. I was alive, but I was also dying. I saw everyone around me existing and living but I was drowning and suffocating. The more I looked at life, it become hopeless. The more I wanted to live, my body refused to live. The more days I remained alive, I seem to just exist without any worth, purpose, or validity. The more I spoke of death, I more I wanted it and accepted it as my fate.

Mental health is a very important and valuable subject to me. I advocate that with my friends and family and I encourage them to seek any help and speak up if they are going through anything. It’s better to talk about our problems and what’s bothering us mentally than to keep it to ourselves until it’s too late. Depression makes one see the world with no purpose, no hope, no worth, and no meaning.

We do not need to give our loved ones who are going through a lot advice or our opinion on what they are experiencing but rather we just have listen to what they have to say. Even if they don’t make sense, just listen. Because listening can take them further than not listening.

HT: If you had to sustain your creativity with only 3 books for the rest of your life, what would these books be?

JK: Top three books to sustain my creativity;

  1. How to Have a Beautiful Mind by Edward De Bono.

This is a book I got from my father. He suggested for me to read and I’ve kept it with me ever since. I carry it with me everywhere I go. Whenever I feel like re-energizing and boosting my spirit, I read that book. There’s some great stuff in there.

  1. God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.

This was a book I discovered during my freshman year in University. I was looking for PNG history books in the library when I came across it. I fell in love with the title and gave it a read. I fell deeper in love with the way Arundhati Roy carved out his words in painting every experience in the story. Whilst reading through that book, I couldn’t help but notice that he writes just like Rumi.

  1. The Art of Living and Dying By Osho.

I love this book. I would recommend it to anyone who is struggling with the fear of death, happiness, fear of missing out, and acceptance. This book helped me a lot last year. I went through the whole year fearing death and fearing missing out on life itself. This book helped and comforted me. I was able to understand and accept life as it is and death as it is. I do go back every now and then just to calm my nerves and get some peace.

HT: What is the one thing you can’t do without when going to write?

JK: Listening to music and reading. Without doing any of these, I find it hard to write. I listen to music to get into the mood or heighten the emotions I am experiencing when writing. Music motivates and encourages me into pouring out my heart. Which makes the emotions on the paper raw, real, and true. I also allow myself to read. Reading improves the way I carve out my words in expressing how I am feeling and those emotions I’m experiencing.

HT: Encouraging a thriving literary culture of writers and readers in Papua New Guinea – what does this look like to you?

JK: To have a thriving culture of writers and readers in PNG means to have everyone, regardless of age, culture, language, religion, sex, beliefs, and so forth, educated and literate. It is very vital that every citizen in the country are literate. A literate population allows for growth, evolution, development, and success within and outside of the country. When everyone is able to read and write, the goals and aims of the country’s development can be achieved.

Papua New Guinea has very well-written and established policies, laws, regulations, and acts for its developments, but due to the high illiteracy rate in the country, it is hindering us from achieving these goals. It is also affecting the country’s majority of population (which resides in the rural areas) in understanding the processes and protocols involved in bringing and implementing developments in the country.

Due to that, we are faced with many issues with limited ways and strategies in addressing those issues. When we create a thriving, encouraging, and motivating reading and writing culture, we enable all individuals to think critically and analytically towards addressing the various issues within the country. Furthermore, we create an independent and self-reliant mindset amongst all individuals in the country. Hence, positively influencing their decision makings.

For instance, if the whole population of the country is literate and educated, issues such as sorcery-related killings and women’s reproductive health will be fully addressed because the people would have a better understanding of the issues and will create strategic ways in solving and addressing those issues. Right now, we have concepts such as culture and religion playing a huge role in influencing the way people perceive those issues. This is causing a conflict that tends to further complex the issue, and it makes it harder for the government to address those issues.

If all people fully comprehend the root cause of those issues and their influences, they would understand the processes involved in resolving and addressing those issues.

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?

JK: I have always wanted to write a book, a novel, or a poetry book. It is a goal I am trying to achieve and hope to achieve one day. My experiences keep me motivated and inspired in working towards that goal. Life is temporary and I believe that the only way an individual can live forever is through their art or passion.

The thought of not being alive in the next 100 years, motivates and encourages me to write. I hope to one day relate to someone in the future or hope that one day someone will save one of my writings and speak about how much it has helped them cope through their darkest times. Just like I do to my favorite poems, books, and stories by deceased authors and poets.

HT: Where can readers find your writing?

JK: My poems can be found on my Instagram page - @tomoriccy.


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