Thoughts on a colonial mindset.

By PNG Echo

The street where I was born.
The street where I was born.

I am often asked what attracted me to the politics of Papua New Guinea. I can only reply by evoking the country of my birth – Wales.

Although I left Wales as a teenager, Wales has never left me – I see in Papua New Guinea many reflections of Wales – especially in the struggle for identity.

My Country

My Country - my beloved Brecon Beacons covered in snow at sunset
My Country – my beloved Brecon Beacons covered in snow at sunset

Today I was reminded of poet, Gerallt Lloyd Owen: a fiercely patriotic Welshman who, in 1972, published an antholology of poems entitled: ‘Cerddi’r Cywilydd’ which, translated from our language (Welsh),  means ‘The Poems of Shame’.

The poems were written in response to Wales having invested the English Prince Charles as Prince of Wales – a very unpopular event with those of a nationalist bent – although celebrated by many – to the nationalistic horror of Lloyd Owen.

Most striking in this anthology is the poem ‘Fy Ngwald’ (My Country). In it he invokes the name of Llewelyn – the last (indigenous) Prince of Wales who was killed by the English in 1282.

It is a bitter lament on national subservience and the colonial mindset. Here is the first and most well-know verse.

Gerallt Lloyd Owen
Gerallt Lloyd Owen

Fy Ngwald

Wylit, wylit, Lywelyn,
Wylit waed pe gwelit hyn.
Ein calon gan estron ŵr,
Ein coron gan goncwerwr,
A gwerin o ffafrgarwyr
Llariaidd eu gwên lle’r oedd gwŷr.

Translation

The valley in winter
The valley in winter

My Country

You’d cry, you’d cry Llywelyn,
You’d cry blood if you could see this,
Our hearts with a foreigner,
Our crown with a conqueror,
And our people are just a privileged lover
With meek smiles, where once there were men.

Strong words.
Do they resonate in Papua New Guinea?  Could the name of our great Prince Llywelyn be substituted by a great warrior/leader of Papua New Guinea and these words become eerily apt?

My convictions

Tapini in Goilala - another valley dear to my heart
Tapini in Goilala – another valley dear to my heart

It is because of my strong nationalist leaning that I support the leadership initiatives of Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, when he takes back what is rightfully PNGs – like OkTedi.

It is because I believe that the identity of smaller nations should not be subjugated to a more powerful neighbor that I applauded when your Foreign Minister, Rimbink Pato, restricted the access to Bougainville for Australians when Australia decided it could ignore PNG national sovereignty and bypass diplomatic channels.

It is also why I support the initiative of Gary Juffa (if not necessarily the modus operandi) #takingbackPNG.

But ‘no’ to racisim

Mty brand of nationalism, however, does not support xenophobia – indeed the Welsh tradition embraces all comers – especially the downtrodden.  And I am nothing if not a product of proud Welsh traditions.

Two of my Welsh wantoks who were children when banish black singer and activist, Paul Robeson, was welcomed in our valley.
Two of my Welsh wantoks who were children when banish black singer and activist, Paul Robeson, was welcomed in our valley.

Welsh coal miners, from which I’m directly descended, defied the British government and, using their own resources, travelled to Spain to fight against the fascism of General Franco in the Spanish Civil War.

Wales supported and harboured black dissidents banished from America because of their civil rights activism against black oppression – such as the singer Paul Robeson.

Robeson stated that It was in the valleys of south Wales (from whence I hail) that he first understood the struggles of white and negro together – after he had been down a coal mine in the Rhondda Valley (the next valley to where I was born) and lived amongst us.

My activities in Papua New Guinea are just a continuation of a proud political tradition transferred to closer, different (but often so similar) arena.

May your God bless Papua New Guinea

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