Port Moresby’s Crafts Market at Ela Beach
Young girls display freshly cut flowers and ‘bird of paradise’ blooms
May 2015: It was the last Saturday of the month, the team had a few hours to spare and Erik, our team leader, suggested that we explore the Ela Beach Craft Market. It was a great idea. I have visited a smaller souvenir area downtown (see “The Bilum Wall of Waigani”) but the craft market is definitely something not to miss when in this city. The Lonely Planet calls Ela Beach Craft Market “the best market in PNG”; it is located in one of the most popular beaches of Port Moresby; and the hotels where we often stayed were literally on the ridge just above the place. And yet, unfortunately, security precautions and tight schedules have prevented us from visiting the place for the past three years that I’ve been coming over. It was the perfect opportunity for me to take photos and be able to talk about the place from first-hand experience. And so the team headed out early in the morning and we were not disappointed. Here’s what we saw.
More verdant tropical blooms await buyers under the shade of an acacia tree
This boy sells wild flowers in a corner
Occupying the most space in the market are the popular bilums, handcrafted colorful bags made of local fiber or yarn
The more authentic of the bilums are those made of fiber extracted from local plants and adorned with natural dyes
On one corner, a guy displays bilums and indigenous paintings
For those in serious search for indigenous paintings, a wide portion of the market grounds is occupied by artworks and their artists.
The buka basket is another favorite souvenir from Papua New Guinea. Handcrafted from bamboo and local vines, these baskets make a great display on anybody’s dining table.
Hand-carved kitchen wares are also available and could make great partners for the buka baskets
The abundance of hardwood in Papua New Guinea has spawned a small industry on ethnically-designed furniture.
For offices and bigger livingrooms, these manually sculptured masks and animals could make great displays and conversation pieces
Smaller carvings of unmistakably PNG themes are also in abundance
Indigenous tools, including spears, bows and arrows, are among the display of this guy
Bracelets, necklaces and ornaments made of shells are also in abundance
Haggling is perfectly acceptable and the vendors are always happy to strike a bargain
It will be good to ask the vendor the story behind an item before buying to understand its cultural significance
Among the curious items are these cone-shaped things adorned with hand-crafted fiber. They are called koteka or “penis gourd” traditionally worn by PNG bush men to cover their private parts.
And, once tired or already confused what souvenir to take home, one can take a break, grab a barbecue and cold drink and then listen to this grass-skirted male band play crisp, unique drum-like sounds using only a set of tubes and their slippers.
Before lunchtime, our group had explored the whole market and each had picked up a few items to take home. As for me, I bought a few bilums which I quickly squeezed into my backpack as I looked for the next item to examine or photograph. The craft market is open every last Saturday of the month and I don’t mind coming back for more photos and souvenirs when another opportunity arises.