Young writer inspired by PNG culture

By Pahnjah Lohia

One of the youngest ever entrants in the Crocodile Prize national literary awards has emphasised the importance of heritage and culture to future generations.

Throughout her life 14 year old Vairella Lohia – Vai for short – has been exposed to a variety of cultural and traditional settings.

Her father is of Motuan and Rigo origin and her mother a mixture of Abau and Kairuku. She loves to learn more about this cultural blend and participate in dances and ceremonies.

Rakalasi – her Crocodile Prize entry – reveals a Motuan custom for when a first born child is brought out of the house to meet its extended family for the first time.

“Cultures and traditions are important because they help us think about and remember how our ancestors lived in the past,” Vai says.

“Some of these cultures and traditions are practiced to this day.

“I also like bride prices in the Motu culture because of how the event is organised and how the family is brought together.”

Vai grew up in the diverse surrounds of Port Moresby and with friends from throughout the country she appreciates the importance of heritage for all Papua New Guineans.

“If I were to take part in another culture from another province it would definitely be the Autonomous Region of Bougainville,” she says.

“It’s because of their dancing patterns and the bamboo pipes used in the musical part of the dance.”

When it comes to writing, Vai Lohia is inspired by her mum, journalist-turned-public relations professional Maggie Veve-Lohia, who also takes on the role of household editor-in-chief.

Vai was encouraged by her mother to enter her piece in the 2019 Crocodile Prize category for heritage literature that is sponsored by the Cleland family.

She believes writing can help people better understand the world around them.

“Writing is an important tool that can help people communicate what they are able to read, understand or feel,” Vai says.

“I love writing about imaginative stories and legends.

“My inspiration comes from my mother who is a journalist. I usually go to her with my English homework and assignments.”

In her family, Vai takes on an important role as the eldest of her four sisters and she knows it is important for young women to set an example for other women to see and know they have a voice.

“Our ideas and experience can shape the future for others – not only women, but children as well,” she says. Whatever the outcome of her entry, Vai will remain proud of her culture and can be proud of herself for sharing it with the world through her writing.

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