A Slice of Daily Life, Koki Fish Market, PNG

Monochrome portrait of a Papuan girl with a fish, Koki

Young Girl : Big Fish
Koki Fish Market, just outside Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, is a great place for fresh fish and free smiles.

I love Papua New Guinea.

I love it with reservations; the same kind of reservations one has about a disordered cousin whose heart is in the right place, but whose life is always a tumult of chaos.

I admit: I was cautious at first.

I had been warned before I booked the flights for my Jim Cline Photo Tour with Karl Grobl: early arrival in the country “is not recommended as there is nothing much to see in Port Moresby and it is not advisable to head out on your own.”

Add to this: the Australian Government ongoing travel advice to “exercise a high degree of caution”, and the damning 2016 Human Rights Watch World Report, which says: “PNG is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman or girl, with an estimated 70 percent of women experiencing rape or assault in their lifetime.”

So, on entry to the country I was nervous. I became more vigilant when the person who had been assigned to meet me at the airport was a betel-nut chewing man with little English in tattered jeans and a grubby polo shirt. And, thanks to the vagaries of flight schedules, I had – against advice – arrived an extra day early.

I didn’t go far and I didn’t take the cameras on my solitary forays around Port Moresby. It was true that the neighbourhood I was in was dusty and dirty with little to recommend it except for the beautiful bougainvillea that climbed the barbed-wire fences. But, I never once felt uncomfortable or afraid. The people who passed by on the sidewalks looked like they were going to work and weren’t remotely interested in me. The other people squatting or sitting on the verges, selling eggs and cigarettes and hand-made bilum bags, were all chatty and friendly.

What I found most confronting in those first days, was the ubiquitous use of betel nut. Classified as carcinogenic by the World Health Organization since 2003, the effects of chewing the seeds of the Areca catechu palm tree were evident in all the broad smiles that welcomed me. From teething toddlers to toothless elderly, chipped, stained and decayed teeth, and receding gums, attested to the harms of regular chewing.

In many situations, this made taking pictures difficult: people were happy to smile, and their smiles displayed dismal oral hygiene. My pictures were at risk of looking as exploitative as the faux travel guide: Molvania: A Land Untouched By Modern Dentistry (Jetlag Travel Guide).

That, plus the insanely chaotic backgrounds, is one of the reasons I decided to experiment with monochromes when I was processing the pictures from our first “official” group outing, to the newly opened Koki Fish Market just outside of Port Moresby.

Enjoy!

Papuan woman Making Bilum Bags, Port Moresby

Making Bilum Bags
In spite of all the warnings, everyone I met on the streets of Port Moresby was very friendly.

Papuan mother and toddler, Port Moresby

Mum and Bub
Evidence of betel nut is everywhere: I was particularly distressed to see this carcinogen used as a teething salve.

Koki Fish Market, Port Moresby PNG

Koki Fish Market
Built with government funds and officially opened in December 2016, the Koki Fish Market is the first development of its kind in PNG. Designed to support the fishing business, it sits over the waters of Walter Bay on the south side of Port Moresby.

Houses on pylons, Gabatu Motu Motu, Papua New Guinea

Gabatu Motu Motu
The houses all around the Koki Fish Market are also built on pylons. Most of the people here are Motu, the original inhabitants of these southern coastal areas of Papua New Guinea. They believe that building over water keeps them safe from witchcraft and black magic.

Monochrome portrait of a Papuan woman, Koki Fish Market, Port Moresby PNG

Fish Market Lady
Even though we are not in the market for the fresh fish on offer, the sales women are smiling and welcoming.

Monochrome portrait of a Papuan woman, Koki Fish Market, Port Moresby PNG

Fish Market Lady
And it is mostly women: the men do the fishing and the women do the selling.

portrait of a Papuan woman, Koki Fish Market, Port Moresby PNG

Market Lady (Colour)
This shot – with no added saturation – of a woman selling bags, rubber gloves and elastics, gives an idea of the clean, but colourful mayhem that assaults the senses inside the market.

Monochrome portrait of a Papuan woman, Koki Fish Market, Port Moresby PNG

Market Lady (Creamtone)
I much prefer the order imposed by a monochrome treatment.

Monochrome portrait of two Papuan women, Koki Fish Market, Port Moresby PNG

Family
Working in the market is a family affair.

Monochrome portrait of a Papuan woman, Koki Fish Market, Port Moresby PNG

New Mother

Colourful fish for sale, Koki Fish Market, Port Moresby PNG

Fish for Sale
The fish for sale in the market …

Colourful fish for sale, Koki Fish Market, Port Moresby PNG

Spotted Fish
… comes in all patterns …

fish for sale, Koki Fish Market, Port Moresby PNG

Fish in the Market
… shapes …

Colourful fish for sale, Koki Fish Market, Port Moresby PNG

Colourful Fish
… hues …

Monochrome portrait of a Papuan woman with a Fish, Koki Fish Market, Port Moresby PNG

Woman with a Fish
… and sizes. Some of the varieties looked as if they would be more at home in an exotic aquarium than at a local fish-stall.

Shell Fish for sale, Koki Fish Market, Port Moresby PNG

Shell Fish

Shell Fish for sale, Koki Fish Market, Port Moresby PNG

Shell Fish

Monochrome portrait of a Papuan woman with shells, Koki Fish Market, Port Moresby PNG

Market Woman with Shells
All kinds of shells are important in a country where special ones were once used as currency.

Monochrome portrait of a Papuan family, Koki Fish Market, Port Moresby PNG

Family Group

Monochrome portrait of two Papuan woman, Koki Fish Market, Port Moresby PNG

Women in the Market
The market is a busy place, …

Monochrome portrait of a Papuan woman, Koki Fish Market, Port Moresby PNG

Woman in the Market
… but people still have time for a chat and a smile.

Family at the Fish Market, Koki Fish Market, Port Moresby PNG

Family at the Fish Market
I wanted a picture of a mother and daughter, but as soon as I picked up the camera, the male family members jumped into the frame!

Monochrome portrait of a young Papuan woman, Koki Fish Market, Port Moresby PNG

Young Woman

Koki Fish Market, Port Moresby PNG

Koki Fish Market
As we return to our bus in the carpark, we can see the boats tied up around the market.

Shiny Fish Sculpture, Koki Fish Market, Port Moresby PNG

Shiny Fish Sculpture
Outside the market, locals use a magnificent shiny metal fish sculpture as a resting- and meeting-place.

The Koki Fish Market is an interesting place, giving local shoppers a central place to buy their freshly-caught fish for dinner. 

Text: Keep smilingIt also provides visitors with a nice, safe, bite-size “slice” of colourful every-day PNG life.

If anything, it’s almost too colourful!

Photos: 10-11August2017

  • sidran - October 12, 2017 - 10:41 am

    Vibrant and colorful! I like that smiling lady with a flower in her hair.ReplyCancel

  • Jan Lively - October 12, 2017 - 4:05 pm

    Wonderful story there Ursula, as usual . . . .

    I love your commitment to research and history. You ARE the best.

    Happy Trails,

    JanReplyCancel

    • Ursula - October 15, 2017 - 12:48 am

      Thanks so much, Jan! Always a pleasure travelling with you. xReplyCancel

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