an interview with Andrew Kuliniasi :
PLAY | He is Victor by Andrew Kuliniasi, 2020 | MILNE BAY
(Image credit: Godfreeman Kaptigau) With the theme 'Experience of Independence', Writers Exhibiton PNG46 by Hibiscus Three saw Papua New Guinea's 45th Independence Day celebrated online, hosted by the independent publisher's website. Heeding Ignatius Kilage's clarion within the foreword of 'My Mother Calls Me Yaltep', Hibiscus Three invited Papua New Guinean writers from in-country and abroad, to submit original writing so that their words could be read, considered and appreciated by other Papua New Guineans. To do so on 16 September, Papua New Guinea's Independence Day, seemed only fitting. The work of ten (10) writers were featured in the two-day online exhibition, where visitors to the website had an opportunity to reflect on the early contributors to literature of Papua New Guinea; many of whom have an impact on today's generation of emerging and established writers and their showcased writing.
With the inaugural exhibition now concluded, Hibiscus Three shares conversations had with the PNG writers featured, allowing an opportunity for exhibition visitors to learn more about the writer behind the prose. For this post, Writers Exhibition PNG46 featured writer, Andrew Kuliniasi, shares with us:
Hibiscus Three: Can you remember the moment you knew that you would pursue and share your creative writing with others?
Andrew Kuliniasi: I became a writer out of necessity. I was not seeing many roles for Papua New Guineans on stage, in fact I wasn't seeing many Papua New Guineans interested in being on stage so I started writing plays to cater for that. I think the moment I knew that I would be a writer was when I had written a short story for a competition and I didn't win. I then took that short story and made my debut as a playwright, with that story. "Meisoga", it was then I realized I wanted to write PNG stories. I did have a knack for writing, I have a walking dictionary for a Grandmother as well, so these were good fuel when i started creative writing.
HT: What do you write about, and what are the common reactions you’ve had from re: What do you write about, and what are the common reactions you’ve had from redI write. I like creating a person, who feels and thinks and may not be relatable to the audience but the audience can understand and feel empathy for. I guess there isn't any drama if a character isn't at their worst and the actors that read my plays know that I'm notorious for killing characters and putting them in rather tragic situations. I like tragedy, not because I am a sadist but because there are so many truths in tragedy that reflect life at its most raw, people die, people change, people do bad things. Capturing that and the reasons why makes the work interesting for me. When I build characters I pull from real life, I pull from observation and I pull from people I know. I think readers are shocked sometimes that I'd address hard issues in my writing. In my earlier play Meisoga I had to write about incest and witchcraft because of it's cultural context, in He Is Victor I wrote about gay rights and HIV. These are hard topics for audiences and especially in PNG, it's about making them digestible for the readers and from what I have seen is that readers and audience members are always left with feeling like they have met and know the characters.
HT: What piece of writing of yours are you most proud of, and can you briefly outline its message and its significance to you?
AK: I think I will always be very proud of my first play, Meisoga. Meisoga is my ancestral story about the matriarch of the Meisoga clan and their migration and conquest of the Island Misima in Milnebay Province. All based on a true story, I was 16 when I wrote it and it really started my interest in writing. More so because I wrote this as a short story for a competition and it didn't even make the cut, so once I turned it into a play and now having staged it twice I'd say it is a great reminder to me to keep persevering no matter what because I turned that loss into a win.
HT: If you had to sustain your creativity with only 3 books for the rest of your life, what would these books be?
AK: The Hunger Games Trilogy. All three books. I'm a simple creature, the Hunger Games is my favourite series. I could read, and still read the books over and over.
HT: What is the one thing you can’t do without when going to write?
AK: I cannot do without something hot to drink. I usually write in the night, when it's cold and especially when it's raining. So coffee, tea, milo or hot chocolate are my go to. Usually I always write in my note books before putting it on a word document, and I always need to drink something hot before I write in my note books.
HT: Encouraging a thriving literary culture of writers and readers in Papua New Guinea – what does this look like to you?
AK: Telling more PNG stories. PNG has strong oral literature. It is up to the writers of today to be able to actually sit and write that down. Most of the stories of our elders are dying, because our elders are dying or they can't remember. I feel that the more we write down, in every genre, these PNG stories, the more we encourage reading and writing.
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?
AK: I haven't written a fantasy novel, I would really like to because I have this great idea for it just no time to start with all the other stories. I keep at this goal because I know that the idea I have will change the way Papua New Guineans tell stories.
HT: Where can readers find your writing?
AK: No blog yet, but follow @knacktsproductions on instagram, my production company to see and follow PNG stories in Film and Theatre.
Thank you for the inspiring conversation, Andrew. Hibiscus Three encourages readers to follow @knacktsproducstions on Instagram.
Stay connected with the Hibiscus Blog in the coming days to meet more of the featured writers of our recent online event, Writers Exhibition PNG46.