About Me

HALO NA WELKAM. I am a writer and scholar, living and breathing in Papua New Guinea—a place of reference, belonging, and inspiration. Intermittent breaks and peregrinations from homeland are part of my life, often lasting from a couple of days to a number of years. I write poetry, short stories, essays, and reviews of books that interest me. I have a number of publications to my credit. Most of my publications are circulated within a limited circle. I have several works in progress and will have them published once an opportunity drops in front of me. The scholarship interest I have covers such wide and broad areas as Pacific literary and cultural diversity, folklore and indigenous knowledge systems, literacy and language issues, books and libraries in PNG, writing and publishing, media and communication technologies in PNG. As an indigenous scholar operating within the education system I advocate indigenous knowledge systems, pedagogies, and methodologies of research. I also advocate for the development of curriculum development and cultural re-education in Papua New Guinea.

I graduated from the University of Minnesota, USA, with a PhD in English (1998). I wrote my dissertation on traditional medicinal knowledge and healing practices in Papua New Guinea: “Knocking on Ancestors’ Door: Discourse Formation in Healing Ritual Utterances and Narratives of Nagum Boikens in Papua New Guinea”. The Fulbright Scholarship Board and the Macarthur Foundation Fellowship on International Peace and Cooperation sponsored my graduate studies. My graduate coursework consisted of interdisciplinary programs of study in English literature, folklore, anthropology, linguistics, African and American Studies, cultural studies, comparative literature, third world films, and developmental studies.

The depth of my teaching and research experiences include the following:

I am attached to the University of Papua New Guinea as a Senior Lecturer (2005-2015) and Lecturer (1992-2004) in Literature and English Communication Strand for the last 20 years.

Between January 2011 and June 2011 (Spring Semester) I held the Arthur Lynn Andrews Chair in Pacific and Asian Studies at the Center for Pacific Islands Studies within the School of Pacific and Asian Studies, University of Hawai’i, USA. I taught a senior seminar to Masters and PhD students enrolled in various programs at the University of Hawai’i, particularly in Pacific Studies and the English Department. I taught studies in Pacific literature and cultural productions, gave a public lecture on Pacific literature and culture in the English Department’s colloquium, and recited my own creative work for the East West Center.

My syllabus for the course Unwriting Oceania: Studies in Pacific Literature and Culture, includes, but not limited to the following:  The course began with Albert Wendt’s original vision for a new Oceania and followed by Epeli Hau’ofa’s articulation of the notion of Oceania. Each week students considered a theme emerging out of this artistic and intellectual ocean of ideas. Discussions centered around Oceanic imaginary and its representation, unwriting Oceania: repositioning representations, literary and cultural studies in Oceania, Oceanic art and performance culture, folk narrative structures in Oceania, Indigenous films, imaginary geographies: diaspora and cross-cultural fertilization, unmasking histories and memories in Oceania, dialogic translations in Oceania, gendered metaphors: sexualities and sites of power, Indigenous customs and law in Oceania, Indigenous epistemology, and theory and cultural discourse in Oceania. Relevant publications on Pacific literature and cultural production were introduced each week as anchors for learners to navigate through the deep intellectual waters of theory and critical enquiry into the formation and proliferation of an Indigenous theory of cultural analysis. The course syllabus is attached.

I was also a Visiting Scholar with the Pacific Islands Development Program (PIDP) within the East West Center, during the Spring Semester (January 2011 to June 2011). I participated in teaching and research programs of the East West Center during this period.

I was a Visiting Professor of English (August 2007-May 2008) at the University of Minnesota, USA. I taught Pacific Literary and Cultural Diversity (Senior Seminar, Spring Semester 2008), Literacy and American Cultural Diversity (Fall 2007 and Spring Semester 2008), and Analysis of English Language (Fall Semester 2007).

I was a Research Scholar (March 2006-September 2006), Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies, University of Canterbury, New Zealand. I completed a book on Indigenous medicinal plants and bio-linguistic diversity in Papua New Guinea.

I served as the Foundation Director (2002-2007) of the Melanesian and Pacific Studies (MAPS), at the University of Papua New Guinea. As founding director of the Melanesian and Pacific Studies (MAPS) at the University of Papua New Guinea, I had developed linkages with similar institutions in Papua New Guinea, in the Pacific region, and in different parts of the world. I had organized and participated in conferences and workshops related to the MAPS centre’s objectives.

Three highlights of my term as the director of MAPS include: organizing the international conference on reframing indigenous knowledge, research methodologies and pedagogies (2004), establishing a publishing program for the Melanesian and Pacific Studies, and securing funding from Tokyo International University to develop the Japanese Language program at the University of Papua New Guinea (2006).

Within the range of literature courses I have been teaching over the years I cover literary and cultural diversity of Pacific Island societies, their knowledge system, and the dynamic cultural, social, and political interactions that link them to each other as well as to the rest of the world. My courses build on literature, indigenous epistemology, literacy, folklore of indigenous medicine, cultural and linguistics diversity, Indigenous jurisprudence, social and political changes in Oceania.

I supervise students at undergraduate and graduate levels. I had supervised six BA Honours degree students and one MA degree student at the University of Papua New Guinea. I had served as an external committee member to a Ph.D. student in English, University of Hawai’i. I also provide advice to international graduate students doing research in Papua New Guinea. Details appear in the resume.

From time to time I advise the government of Papua New Guinea on literacy, curriculum reform in education, literature, the arts, libraries, book development, and policy development. Since my return from holding the Arthur Lynn Andrews Chair I have advised the Government of PNG on two important forums: (1) High Level Stake Holders Forum on Social Protection (2011) and Pacific Islands Forum Disability Ministers Meeting 2 (2012).  I have served as facilitator for the National Literacy and Awareness Secretariat (NLAS), drafted the provincial literacy policy for NLAS, and conducted various workshops for NGOs and community language and literacy groups around the country. Some of the workshops that I conducted include the following: Kavieng Prison Writers’ workshop, Buin Secondary High School In-Service worshop, Zia Writers workshops in Morobe District, Buimo Prison writers’ workshops, Kavieng Prison writers’ workshop, Ombudsman Commission report writing workshop, and PNG language survey workshop at UPNG. I also served as a consultant to the Department of Community Development on developing a social protection policy. I also edited The CEDAW Shadow Report on the Status of Women in Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (2010) for the Papua New Guinean National Council of Women. I also facilitated a media literacy workshop for the PNG Media Council. I also had the rare honour of opening the Gadsup Indigenous Knowledge and Information Communication Centre in Kainantu, EHP, and participating in the UNESCO workshop on literacy and non-formal education sector.

Over the years I have developed important connections with many individuals, researchers, and scholars in Oceania and the world. I have served as an Executive and Vice President of the International Council for the Study of Pacific Islands (ICSPI) through which I have developed important relationships with scholars within Oceania. I have collaborated with scholars in Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, UK, Canada, and USA.

I have conducted research on traditional medicinal knowledge and belief systems of the Nagum Boikens in Papua New Guinea (Ph.D., dissertation, University of Minnesota, USA, 1998), Papua New Guinean literature (MA thesis, University of Canterbury, New Zealand, 1992), influence of oral traditions in Papua New Guinean writing (BA Honors thesis, University of Papua New Guinea, 1991), and continue to research the literature, folklore and cultural knowledge systems of Papua New Guinea.

My current research focuses on the use of folk narrative structures in studying the Pacific literary, artistic, and cultural productions. I have published both literary and scholarly essays on literature, language, and culture. I have presented scholarly papers in various conferences and workshops on Indigenous cultures and knowledge systems of Oceania. A book on this research is now in preparation for publication.

I have edited or co-edited various journals and books: Savannah Flames: A Papua New Guinea Journal of Literature, Language, and Culture, and co-edited (with Kathleen Barlow) The Contemporary Pacific special issue: Logging the Southwestern Pacific countries of Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands (1997). I have co-edited (with Sakarepe Kamene) Zia Writers of Waria (2005) and (with Otto Nekitel and Sakarepe Kamene) Critical Developmental Literacy (1996). I edit all Melanesian and Pacific Studies (MAPS) publications. Reframing Indigenous Knowledge: Cultural Knowledge and Practices in Papua New Guinea (2009) is the latest MAPS publication that I edited.  

I have four collections of poetry published: Lomo’ha I am in Spirit’s Voice I Call (1991), Hembemba: Rivers of the Forest (2000), A Rower’s Song (2009) and Detwan How? (2012). A collection of short stories entitled The Unpainted Mask (2010) was published by UPNG Press and Manui Publishers.

As a regular weekly columnist in The National newspaper of Papua New Guinea I write about literature, language, literacy, cultures, indigenous knowledge systems, books, libraries, media technologies, education, writing, tourism, museums, art, PNG politics and social change. These are electronically archived in my blogs: www.stevenswindow.blogspot.com and www.manui-manui.blogspot.com

Apart from English, I speak, write, and communicate in Tokpisin (PNG pidgin), Nagum Boiken (mother tongue), Hiri Motu (PNG pidgin), Bislama (Vanuatu pidgin), Pijin (Solomon Islands pidgin). I have basic understanding of Japanese.