Kiunga Market Revisited
June 2013: I was back in Kiunga, in the Western Province of Papua New Guinea. There were a series of meetings as usual and a brief visit to a nearby village and, yes, we got a chance to visit the Kiunga Public Market once again.
When in developing countries, I like visiting village markets because it always gives me a quick idea of the local culture and economy; mainly what ordinary people produce and earn from and what they usually place on their dining tables. There are grocery stores and smaller shops in Kiunga but these places sell commercial goods, many of them not even produced in the country. So I only go there to buy stuff such as bottled water but I like the Kiunga market because it is more telling of local people’s lives and livelihoods.
The other thing I always want to catch a glimpse of are local food items that can only be termed in other places as “exotic”. I remember that I had an exciting time during my previous visit to Kiunga market. Among the many “exotic” food items I discovered was a live 3-meter snake being sold as a food item. I thought the serpent was already dead until the vendor, seeing that I was photographing its partially concealed body, took out the whole wriggly creature from the bag and started waving its head in front of my camera. Despite the brief eye contact with the live snake, I survived it but I was quite sure that it didn’t survive its buyer’s cooking pot later that day.
The cassowary, a huge, flightless bird, is also being hunted as a meat source in Western Province. I have seen some smoke-dried cassowary parts being sold in the market during my previous visits but I always waited for a chance to see fresh cassowary meat on display. During this visit, I got so engrossed in one section of the market such that, by the time got to the meat section, all the parts of the fresh cassowary on display have been sold out. At least I found two ladies selling freshly butchered wild pig with its head still in tact. That was not as exotic as the cassowary but it will do for the meantime.
Perhaps it’s the child in me who keeps having itchy feet to go to local public markets, the same child who never ceases to look at people’s lives and livelihood activities with wonderment. And the same child in me played with these photos so they would look like the images in his favorite storybook. And, boy, was it fun!