I never got to meet Cleopatra ‘Waerisa’ Kolta in person.
This morning, while going through my message feeds, I came across a few that said Cleo had passed on after being ill for a while. She was only 25. She was an artist, writer, medical student and a bit more.
What initially drew me to Cleo’s work was the humor and strength of her character written into it. She was a leader in her own right and an inspirational Papua New Guinean who stood out among others. She packed so much into her short life and lived it with a great deal of passion and determination.
Nothing stood her way.
Through her pen name, Waerisa, she wrote, in Tok Pisin, the most outrageously funny letters expressing her love for Prince Harry, proposing marriage and promising economic benefits for PNG and the UK including through exports of agepa (greens native to the highlands), ginger and bamboo used for cooking.
In another of her letters, Waerisa suggested that the Prince hire the ‘Lamp flaps’ mamas as chefs at Buckingham palace while attempting to get the potential love of her life interested in the culinary delights of Port Moresby.
When applying for the position of Princess, Waerisa told the young prince, she was also of noble birth and was more than qualified to run the Royal household.
“My grandfather was a Chief of the hauslain (you see I am royal like you). He used to ride sharks because he is a Tolai boy. I bet your granddaddy only rode horses.”
Her writing shone with brilliance. It was original, witty, but also cut to the heart of important issues facing Papua New Guineans like violence against women.
“Where is she going?
Where did she come from?
Where did we all come from?
Were we like this back then?
If only mountains and trees could talk but for now let’s us all be covered in mud and shame for we give stones to them that lift hands to kill.”
Cleo also campaigned against environmental degradation inequality. She spoke out against the misconceptions held against people who lived in squatter settlements.
“I am Waerisa.
Born in the City.
Raised in the village.
Currently living in the settlement but my future is great.
Yes. I fetch water outside my house and I am not ashamed of it.
So long as the world is revolving, situations are not here to stay forever.
Don’t be too ashamed of who you are.
It doesn’t matter where you come from, Royalty is a state of mind.”
Cleopatra ‘Waerisa’ Kolta held her mum in high regard. She was studying to be a medical professional but didn’t get to complete that part of her journey.
This tribute falls short of fully expressing who she was. She leaves a legacy of her positive life in her writing and her thoughts for the future of the country she loved very much.
You inspired and continue to inspire!
Thank you, Waerisa, “born of the earth and trees”