The Shadows in my Eyes

The Shadows in my Eyes

This wistful essay for what Papua New Guinea has become won the PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum Award for Essays and Journalism in this year’s Crocodile Prize. Busa Jeremiah Wenogo, 30, born in Port Moresby, is an economist and freelance writer. His writing reflects an array of socio-economic issues that confront PNG today. He publishes the Facebook page, ‘Black Economy – The truth about the other side of PNG’ and the blog, ‘PNG Informal Economist’.

  What are these shadows in my eyes? They stand on the side of the road helplessly watching their future drift away from them.  

When evening comes they sit idle on the sidewalk gazing up into the starry sky hopelessly wishing for a better world than the present one. Forced to forage for whatever food they can find for the sake of survival, they become oblivious to the dangers of life. Such is their struggle that whenever I look at their faces they chase the sun away with their wretchedness and bring me to despair.  

They obscure my vision with their plight and misery that the brighter future we all hoped for is slipping away from our grasp. In their hands they no longer offer me innocence but guilt and mistrust, for we have driven out their innocence with our arrogance and selfishness.  

From their naïveté they emerge to feed their hunger for survival and desire for adulthood. At such tender age they indulge in drugs, promiscuity and alcohol consumption so as to be accepted by their peers.  

Their childhood is replaced by hardship. For most of them life has been too harsh, not permitting them to enjoy their childhood. Instead, life has them running and dodging the hand of authority.  

They are not animals but children, men and women created to be God’s children. Why should they eat from the grubby palm of their hand?  

Out into the world they go in search of food to ease their malnourishment and water to quench an interminable thirst. They are more scavengers than men. Yet we parade on the front pages of the world news boasting of our economic miracle.  

From afar their shadows stretch beyond the width of my eyes as if they are giants. Yet, when they stand in front of me, I see kids struggling to find their identity and purpose. I see young men and women who see no hope yet still dream of it.  

Even as they grow old, they wake up early each morning to find that hope. What are we doing to our people?  

All around me I see the evil of revolt lurking deep inside every eye I stare into. We are creating enemies from within through our own hypocrisy. It is a calm awaiting a storm.  

It’s sad that our people stand alone to write their destiny instead of clinging to each other. Even when in tears, they would rather not cry on somebody’s shoulder. And so divided we see them falling from grace into death.  

The ugly face of animosity and bigotry is tearing at the walls of our nationhood. Instead of embracing each other in brotherhood we crush each other with jealousy and allegiance to our ethnicity. Why can’t we stand united and together change our nation and our world? Shadows in my eyes, where are your true selves? Come out of your hideouts to the light and chase hopelessness away. This is your land, your pride and joy. Your red, black and gold.  

Where is the beautiful kumul and the sweet romantic kundu beat? Hold your head high and promise never to trade your birthright for a shallow, ephemeral richness.  

I am overwhelmed that the shadows of my people envelop me.  

In the night these shadows give way to loneliness and hopelessness. In their hopelessness they beg for a way out, yet these echoes die before they reach the corridors of Papua New Guinea’s parliament, the Haus Tambaran.  

Hope comes to them only in dreams for reality holds only despair. They know there is no use chasing the sun when there are only shadows. Above, high in the sky, the guardians of their trust soar on ill-earned wealth.  

These so-called guardians burn my eyes with their lurid character. I cannot stand the sight of them. If only they could see the shadows through my eyes they would understand my indignation.  

The world they look at is not free of oppression and suffering. The world we have built is no refuge for the downtrodden.  

The shadows in my eyes deserve the same chance, their fair share, their place in the sun.


Worked for Burns Philp in Popondetta and Port Moresby from 1980 through 1987

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