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25 February 2017


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The Police Motu that I learned in the Western District, spoken by the police, was like an abbreviated version of Hiri Motu with a limited vocabulary. There were also Western District Motu words you didn't hear in Mosbi, like 'mamusi' for village constable etc.

I guess nowadays it's all merged into one.

Good to hear it's making a comeback John -a sort of street patois.

Papuans Rule!

Hiri motu is still alive and its use growing as a street language in some suburbs (Koki, Talai settlement, Kaugere, Joyce bay, End-of-the world, Hoks, Toks, Morata, etc), outside of the traditional motuan villages, Phil.
I agree the number of users has been falling over time, but I sense that a growing resentment towards people from other provinces bullying the hiri people off their land is giving impetus for the revival of its use. So not just the “Burukas” like me, but the “Eregabes” from the southern region increasingly use it in everyday talk on buses & PMVs in the nation’s capital to keep “outsiders” at arm’s length in conversations.
In daily usage terms, particularly amongst the young, I think its not either tokpisin or hirimotu, but both depending on the nature of the “kiki”. But hell yeah, I know which is the superior one ;)
“hevasia dikadika” – My translation of tongue in cheek – for Richard; “Duahi namonamo ! ” – for Baka.

If you asked a Motuan what is Hiri Motu and what is Police Motu they would struggle to explain the difference.Percy Chatterton said they are one and the same.

Aside from that point it is a fact that the younger generation in Motuan villages are conversing more and more in pidgin than in 'pure' Motu as they see it as the 'chic' thing to do.

It is also as a result of more mixed marriages between Motuan girls and men from other parts of PNG such as the Highlands.These men tend to have good jobs,plenty of money,and in many cases, multiple wives.

Mixed marriages,along with other factors are gradually altering the way of life in Hunuabada and other Motuan villages, despite the efforts of village elders to prevent it from happening.

I might add that my children,grandchildren and great grandchildren all speak 'pure' Motu.

Mostly because Hiri Motu (as distinct from Police Motu) is a soft, musical language of great subtlety while Tok Pisin is more clunky and guttural Ed.

Something like French being a more civilised language than English.

I guess it's just personal preference.

As you note, it's demise is down to numbers.

Apropos of Phil K's comments to Chips M, it always amazed me that there was no public displaying of the EIS, if there ever was one, for the development that Phil is eluding to. Just imagine if a mining or an oil company tried to get away with that - everyone and their uncle would be on the developer's hammer, and this right slap bang in Moresby Central!

On what grounds, Phil, is Motu 'much superior' to Tok Pisin? And, if so, why has it declined in currency - apart from the obvious reason of force of numbers?

Hi Chips,

With all the landfill upon which the new yacht club, harbour city and other assorted modernities are built the the tidal flow in Fairfax Harbour has been altered.

Hanuabada sits exactly in the backwash from the landfill so that every bit of rubbish that is tossed into the harbour eventually washes into Hanuabada. There is now a distinctive scum of plastic bottles and smelly stuff riding among the stilts of the houses.

It is not an unanticipated effect. Anyone who builds out into the ocean (groins etc.) knows that there will be a backwash to the lee and increased erosion.

It was either extremely poor planning or a deliberate thumbing of the nose to the original landowners.

Hanuabada now has a siege mentality, awaiting the next atrocity.

My Motu is pretty rudimentary but in the last ten years or so poking around Moresby and travelling down the coast and up though Gulf and Western it has been increasingly difficult to find anyone who speaks Police Motu let alone Hiri Motu. Mostly the speakers are elderly. The kids in Hanuabada don't speak it.

You occasionally hear it in the Motu villages around Moresby and down the coast at Kwikila, Hula, Amau, Cape Rodney and points east.

It's quite sad really. A beautiful language much superior to Tok Pisin.

Is Nostaliga a thing of the past !
I spent four years at Bomana near Port Moresby, (87-90) (The Catholic Seminary there - not the kalabus !) At least once a week we ventured into POM for a good meal at the Kwangtung Village or Airways or some other location. I have been back for shorter stays of a few weeks or months giving courses at Bomana.
I think I learnt the value of 'local knowledge'. In other words, although by 1987 I had already spent many years in the Highlands, I became aware that if I wanted to enjoy my sojourn in POM I had to admit that I was a novice in POM, listen to the local wisdom and learn from those who had been there a long time. I have happy memories of Bomana and POM, even if I did not move around as freely as I had in the Hagen bush.

I'll take my tongue which was pressed firmly against my cheek and put it back in its rightful place.
I was an Industrial Training Officer for the Dept. of Labour during my last 6 years in PNG. So I ran a lot of five-day training courses for PNG nationals at a supervisor level or above right through the nation.
So, of course, I have visited and spent time in Goroka, Hagen, Madang and Mendi.
Hopefully the people who we trained during those 5-dayers in those centres went on to managerial positions.
In my sideline junior journalist role I worked with Geno Vele at the NBC and Tarcissius Bobola (a Morobe lad, I recall). Tarcissius and I covered the entire 14 sports at the 1975 Pacific Games in Guam, seven disciplines apiece, for the Post-Courier.
We phoned back our reports to the Moresby office of the Post-Courier each evening.
So I did a bit of side-by-side training with Tarcissius and Geno, but not in an official ITO role.
As very young men KJ and I covered the '69 Mosbi Games for the Post-Courier which had only just gone to a five-day-a-week publication from its 2-day or 3-day a week stint.
KJ filed reports on track and field --- I covered the boxing.

The album Travelin' Music by Larry Danielson and Billy Aisi was very popular during the early 1970s and many songs were played live at The Gateway. It is on iTunes and contains several Mosbi classics, which would now be considered politically incorrect and include:

Willy the Whingeing Pom
The Streets of Mount Hagen
Bloody Port Moresby
Cheerful Chimbu

Danielson was deported for a short while and eventually ended up in the kalabus following the Woolworths extortion attempt. Further details can be found via:

Thanks Richard Jones, Some of us do actually have no choice but to love Mosbi with its raskols, buai and hula hula come September.

Some of us can do this honoured tradition of putting pen to paper because some bloody narcissist decided that the backwaters were appropriate places to waste away their youth.

No thanks to you, your choice of places are still back pages and the highlands is some amazing country. Even Morata can be amazing country if you care to front up a black market.

If they heard you on the radio, they would do what they did to Richard Carleton during the Sandline crisis. They's love you to bits.

Sorry that you did not get out of your urban shell in Port Moresby. You know that Port Moresby, Amazon Bay and Porebada are not Papua New Guinea and sorry you cannot remember and spell your fellow ASOPA's name. it's Edwin Brumby. Lauto pinis ah!

No, no, no Keith. Not all of us saw Moresby as a staging point because we lerrrrved the bush and the out stations and wanted to get out there.

Some of we urbanised ex-Asopians were actually besotted with old Mosbi.

I lived happily in and around the capital for 10 of my 13 years in PNG --- counting Sogeri and Boera (near Porebada) which were both within reasonable driving distance --- met my future wife there (and we're still together after 46 years), and forged the beginnings of a print and radio broadcasting career in the very same capital.

Who would want to go to some God forsaken backwater in the Highlands or, even worse, somewhere upriver in the Western Province?

Not I. My most miserable year was 1970 spent in Amazon Bay, on the border of the Central and Milne Bay Provinces.
Couldn't wait for term holidays to roll around so I could board the little STOL aircraft and head into HQ.

And like Edwin Brumbleberry I was never a great fan of the Aviat, Kone or Yacht Club in Pt, Moresby. Altho' paid them all a visit or two over the journey.

My faves were the Boroko RSL, the Boroko Sports Club situated right in the middle of the green ovals of all kinds of sports, but best of all the Papuan Rugby League Club with its bar at the top of the grandstand.

Lennie Katterns as the club manager presided over activities at the PRL bar.

We broadcast on 9PA PoM and 9RB Rabaul quite a few Inter-Territory R.L. games from the little booths on either side of that grandstand, as well. And if memory serves, a PRL grand final or 2. There were 5 clubs in the PRL structure back in the day.

Now even though we are intrepid travellers and have visited 60-plus countries at last count I've not the slightest desire to make a return trip to PNG. Not even modern Moresby.

There's too much else left on planet Earth to explore to want to backtrack and look at one place more than once. IMHO, of course.

I am surprised that so few people are talking about the imperialistic inroads Pidgin has made into Papua.

At a book launch some time ago here in Townsville, I tried to explain to the author, Drusilla Modjeska the incongruity of having a discussion with a landowner on the slopes of Mr Lamington in the 1960's in Pidgin - but was completely unsuccessful.

There were some, perhaps many back in our days, Keith who managed to live within a bubble: drive to work at Konedobu, spend their late afternoons and evenings at the Kone Club, Yacht Club or Aviat Club (three clubs I swore I'd never join) and go home. And weekends were much the same - except for the work bit, of course, and with the possible addition of a day out on the boat/yacht.

Our mutual mate, Richard Jones will be even more kranki to hear that Tok Pisin is, inevitably and regrettably, replacing Motu as the predominant lingua franca of Mosbi.

Thank you to Leiao Gerega for the feature in Post Courier's Weekender. Very much appreciate the coverage in the lead up to the Port Moresby book launch event.

Paga Hill Development Company have been pivotal and terrific in their support of not only 'My Walk to Equality' but other literary initiative including their joint sponsorship with Professor Ken McKinnon in creating the McKinnon-Paga Hill Fellowship in 2016.

It is through this fellowship that I had the opportunity to meet and spend time with Francis, Daniel and Martyn - which saw us participate at the Brisbane Writers Festival 2016 and ultimately lay the foundation for our women's anthology.

Lukim yu lo Mosbi bihain lo yu go lukim ples blo yu Simbu, KJ!

Keith, I was in POM but missed you by a day. Sori tumas mi no bungim yu.

Like Phil says, take a stroll through the UPNG campus. See if you have time to drop into the UPNG Bookshop - the only place in PNG where PNG authored books are sold.

You will find John Kasaipwalova, the new manager, to be an interesting person to meet.

It will not be too long before Mosbi gets a McDonalds or should that be McDonalds gets Mosbi

Welkam bek long yu, Kaunsol Meri Ingrid, mipela tok gutpela dei long yu, bikpela hamamas istap long yutupela. Welkam gen long mosbi na long PNG.

Yutupela go lukim ol angra na mipela lukim yutupela bek long Mosbi bihaintaim.

Tru, pastaim mipla go long hailans na baimbai kambek long nambis Mosbi na lukim ologate wantok hia - KJ

Yes, Keith, tell us about Hanuabada, because I heard a rumour that the traditional home of the Motuans has been subsumed by the Moresby urban sprawl and that the beautiful language of pure Motu is now interspersed with conversations in Pidgin. Tell me this is not so.
Enjoy your holiday in PNG.

Hanuabada still stands but I'm informed is no place for the casual visitor without express approval from village leaders. Motu in both its forms is being overtaken by Tok Pisin. The stilt villages of Koiki, Hanuabada and Elevala seem to be hanging on to it but elsewhere the New Guinean lingua franca is the currency of communication - KJ

When you catch up with Martyn get him to take you for a tour of Kaugere and Hanuabada. A stroll around the UPNG campus is enlightening too.

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