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By Guest Contributor – Mr Tau Kuro
I cannot recall when exactly was the last time I visited Koki Market but being away for a “few” decades I must say that driving through the gates of the market the other day not only brought back fond memories of those yesteryears but there was, surprisingly, a sense of disappointment at the once iconic place.
I say “disappointment” because there is a stark contrast from what it is now in comparison to what it was then.
Back then, there was a sense of feeling that the market would only get better. An abundant array of fresh fruits and vegetables, sellers with smiling faces and people attired more respectably as if there was a dress code within the market, it was envisaged by many, including me, that with the development of Port Moresby as a thriving hub, the market too would be developed to keep pace with modern developments. Sadly, while there has been development, it been for the worst.
But that aside, the thought of those “golden” years always brings a smile to my face knowing that I was fortunate enough to experience a truly local “Papuan” environment both from a seller’s view and more pleasingly from a buyer’s point of view.
There was no dress code as such. But there was a certain understanding, although not in writing, that going to public places meant you had to dress respectably. Perhaps it is because of this unwritten understanding of respect that the people also had respect of public utilities. Looking back, the cleanliness of the people and the places is unbelievable. I remember even those who walked around bare feet, they still tucked their shirt in and were generally clean.
Koki market was a thriving market in every sense of the word.
I remember a truck loaded with people from Rigo would drive into the market in the very early hours of the morning to sell a variety of fruits and vegetables. The Rigo people were renown for selling the best fresh bananas in town. Bananas were plentiful and came in variety whether it be for cooking, eating fresh or a specific short but thick shaped type ideal for cooking with sago.
And speaking of sago, the Gulf came in numbers too to sell this traditional type of dried powdered porridge.
The Mekeo on the other hand tended to have exclusive rights to sell betelnut.
A lot of the Kairuku sellers had big afro hair, wearing white t-shirts and red laplap. It was their trademark dress style and on citing one at the market, you could easily tell that they were selling betelnut.
As many of the sellers came from afar, it was natural for many of them to camp outside the market. Some of them came in their two hulled canoes and they too would moor their canoes just alongside what is now the Wanigela settlement. Some often cooked there and driving down two mile hill with open fires lit for cooking, it seemed like a huge bon-fires had been created around Koki Market.
I cannot recall of any settlements during that time and I cam certainly sure Wanigela settlement too did no exist. In fact, that area was scattered with so many coconut trees, and with the sea breeze coming in, it was a pleasant feel to stroll around whilst doing your marketing.
The fish section was unbelievable in variety and quality. This was made even better by the price and often there was little negotiation as the catches sold fast.
Opposite the fish were sea-shells of all kinds. I cannot remember the name of this sea-shell but it was small in size and sold quick. It went so well with sago and after trying it the first time, I clearly understood why it was a favorite.
A lot of expatriates would walk around freely and buy their fruit and vegetables from the market too. You cannot see much of that now but it was normal.
Amongst all these selling of fresh fruits and vegetables and fish, there used to be this guy pushing an ice cream trolley around the market and boy did the kids (and parents) love him.
Times have changed and while its cleanliness has gone, Koki Market in my opinion still sells the best fresh fruits and vegetables.
Hope it’s improved and gets that cleanliness and fresh look because Papua New Guinea fruits and vegetables are the best.