Raskols: The Gangs of Port Moresby?
In 2005, I remember coming across the work of Stephen Dupont, an Australian photographer who tried to document the facelessness of raskols in Port Moresby.
His exhibition, Raskols: The Gangs of Port Moresby, presented a series of formal portraits of the ‘Kips Kaboni‘ or ‘Red Devils‘ – supposedly the longest established group of raskols in PNG (I don’t know how they figured that one out – they must have done research at the Port Moresby Public Library?).
It has always amused me how expatriates who live or have lived in PNG, or who have had some sort of connection with PNG (including the Western media), use the
English word “gang” as the literal translation for the Tok Pisin word raskol.
As a Papua New Guinean, when I think of raskols, and I go through the instantaneous nano-second mental process of translating it into English, the first word that comes to mind is “thieves” – not “gangs”.
I’m not saying that the former is better than the latter (although one does have greater negative connotations than the other) – on the contrary, I’m simply making the observation that expatriates seem to make a connection between the two words that I, as a Papua New Guinean, never have.
And it’s true, I never have thought of raskols as “gangs”.
When I think of gangs, this is what I think of: the Bloods, the Crips, the Mongrel Mob, Hell’s Angels, Black Power, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Surenos and Nortenos – even Al Capone, the Mafia, the Triads, the Melbourne gangland killings, and the Nine Network’s show: Underbelly and that SKY TV Show: Ross Kemp on Gangs.
But raskols? No.
If you look at the list of gangs I named off the top of my head, its not hard to discern that a lot of them are based on ethnic minorities – which presents an
interesting enigma concerning raskols. I’ve never ever in my entire life heard of a raskol group in PNG that is entirely based upon a specific ethnic group – despite PNG being home to over 820 indigenous languages (12% of the World’s total) and consequently, approximately (give or take a couple hundred due to modernisation and assimilation) the same number of different cultures.
I’m not too sure how other Papua New Guineans feel about the issue, but it would be very interesting to find out a bit more about what connotations the word raskol conjures for both the expatriate and the Papua New Guinean.
So please leave a comment about my post.
To be honest, if I was given the choice between staying the night with a bunch of raskols or the Bloods or the Crips – or any other of the gangs I mentioned, I’m choosing my raskols any day. Guaranteed.
I wonder what the PNG expatriate would choose?