#56: Bosmeri

A poem about PNG women challenging engrained assumptions.

Black woman
One time a girl
Her frizzy fro, she permed then curled
and now had loud highlights
‘Cause her voice,
Now matter how right,
Was both too much
and never quiet enough.

She is a rebel
Who learnt to hear the sound of her own voice
A women, the complete version
She wears her struggle
The skin she cannot take off
She is black woman.

“and this…this is the world of men”.
Throwing the axe of her exclamation to her understudy
as one would preparing for battle
Two women on the march to a field where men rarely saw women
Rarer still black women with frizz fro now permed

Today, she is bosmeri
Marching to the beat of her own drum
She has stepped into man’s world
Giving the well practiced grin
This is her peace offering
One that reminds her that this is her place in the universe

So she reaches out her eyes before her hand
To clasp at passing glances
They reach for the pale skinned,
melanin deficient, straight haired, understudy
by her side.
– “Bosmeri moning”.

Yes she is black woman
One time a girl
Her frizzy fro, she perms, curled leaving loud highlights
’cause her voice,
Now matter how loud
Is still not heard.

-Hans Lee


I wrote this poem after a friend of mine, an Architect, and a senior one at that, told me about the troubles she was having at work with some of the men she was working with on a project. I sympathised with her because not only was she dealing with her gender being an issue in the workplace, she was also contending with undertows of her race.

Traditionally the fields of architecture, construction and project management have been dominated by men. A boy’s club of sorts has been formed so when she entered the frame, she was reminded of her own “otherness”.

She challenged me then to openly then to write this piece theming it as “white is always right”. This is why I decided to put in her understudy, the “pale skinned, melanin deficient, straight haired” young lady. When the Architect takes in her understudy, she is greeted as “Bosmeri”, an assumption that cuts straight to the heart of the issue – she was a junior, but because of the colour of her skin, she was assumed to be the boss in that instance.

This happens all too often and is something the younger Papua New Guinean generation are aware of but unwilling to settle for.


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