Herick Aeno is a social researcher by day, but by night he is transformed in to a short story writer who uses fiction as a means to explore Papua New Guinea’s socio-cultural issues.
Originally from Eastern Highlands and still based in Goroka, Herick’s work with the PNG Institute of Medical Research takes him to remote parts of the country to conduct sexual and reproductive health studies.
His research helps the Institute provide vital information on health issues to the National Department of Health and other development partners.
On these journeys he has come across the desperation faced by people in remote areas and this has served as an inspiration for his fiction writing.
“Part of my work includes writing for publication in academic journals,” Herick said.
“I have also developed an interest in capturing experiences and issues I come across in communities throughout PNG.
“I decided to write these short stories about realities as a means to create awareness about the disadvantages that people are faced with due to social and cultural factors that drive the Papua New Guinean way of life.”
Herick’s first entry in 2019 Crocodile Prize – the national literary awards of PNG – was for the Cleland Award for Heritage Literature. Entitled ‘The Not Forgotten’ it reflects on the dark side of cultural practices.
“I came across a child during fieldwork in a highlands community,” he said, “the locals told me that he was an orphan because his mother was tortured and killed in another village a year ago. He ran away and came back to his mother’s village and has been with his relatives since then.”
The real-life story stopped there, but in Herick’s mind were the untold tales of the children of sorcery killing victims.
“I decided to develop a fictitious story about what may have happened to the many children in such circumstances,” he continued.
“What these children go through is very traumatic and can have a huge negative impact on their future.
“This is a result of the violence they’ve witnessed, and the insecurity they feel due to the loss of their parents and the things they have come to love and depend on during their short lives.”
Herick believes change can be made by publicly and thoughtfully articulating important national issues, like sorcery killings, and the impact they have on real people.
“Writing is a powerful tool that can change how people think and react towards issues and situation,” he said.
“If used responsibly, it raises concerns and makes people evaluate their actions in response to these.
“While there are other ways to highlight pressing issues, I believe writing captures the essence of events, experiences and thoughts, and, in turn, touches the human spirit.”