List discussion - KONA

Can anyone confirm whether the term 'corner' is a particularly Western Province (PNG) appellation, and whether 'residential cluster' (often based on some shared characteristic) is an apt description of 'corner'?

Thank-you in advance,

Diana Glazebrook 26 Sep 2001


The use of "kona" in this way was well established at the squatter settlements in Tabubil in the early 1990s. People from each language group lived together and the settlement was broken into 'Tele kona,' 'Urap kona' etc. During that same period, this usage had been carried back to Urapmin and some villages had begun to incorporate 'kona' into their name, though this usage was distinctive for the way it did not mark the social distinctions that to some extent underlay the recruitment of people to villages. Instead, it played off the traditional names, which had a variety of origins but sometimes picked up on the features of the natural environment in which the village was set, abbreviated them and appended 'kona.' Thus Salafaltigin was sometimes known as 'Salafol kona' etc.

Joel Robbins 27 Sep 2001


Perhaps I should put my query about use of corner/kona as a particularly Western Province term into context.

At East Awin, Western Province PNG - the place of my fieldwork 1998-99 - 'corner' was used by Malay speaking West Papuans. UNHCR and the PNG government established East Awin as a relocation place in 1987; a composite camp comprising up to 20 smaller camps (population approx. 3,600 included maybe 100 Awin/Pare as ples). Areas in the three largest camps (inhabited by Yonggom-speaking Muyu) were referred to by the term corner/kona (which wasn't ever translated into Malay), followed by the name of a village in Irian Jaya. So for example, people from 'Ninati corner' at Komokpin camp, East Awin originally came from Ninati village in Irian Jaya. Individual camps at East Awin mainly comprised the same people who had lived together between 1984-87 in a border camp, and had taken the name of this border camp (usually the name of the adjacent PNG village) upon relocation to East Awin in 1987.

Diana Glazebrook 27 Sep 2001


I recall the Catholic priest (from New Zealand) using this term in the late 1960s-early 70s in Nagovisi on Bougainville to refer to the tradestore just below the mission. There were usually people hanging around and talking, but it was hardly urban. I assumed it was a New Zealand expression. The tradstore was at a T in the road, not a crossroads (more my idea of a corner). Can we get any comment from New Zealanders?

Jill Nash 27 Sep 2001


I've heard the term used by Telefolmin in West Sepik, though from those with extensive Western Prov contacts. Residential cluster is an inadequate translation for the usage I've heard, which refers specifically to urban or peri-urban settings. It would be interesting to determine the relation between "kona" and "setelmen" (settlement = urban [ethnic] squatters' enclave?) as used in PNG.

Dan Jorgensen 27 Sep 2001


After working all over over PNG on the ag systems surveys, the only place I ran into "corner" was in Western Province. I assumed that since all these places had appeared around airstrips, that "corner" meant just that, no deep symbolism or post-modernist layers of meaning, as in "That corner of the airstrip". Of course its present use does have more layers than is worth thinking about because it now is now used where there is no airstrip to refer to a cluster of houses, occupied by people who take on the identity of the "corner". It is used at Nomad, Dagua and Kiunga and it may just creep into the Southern Highlands at Bosavi. More mysterious I suppose is why there and nowhere else?

Bryant Allen 28 Sep 2001


You PNG folks may be interested to know that "kona" also exists in Bislama. I am unclear, however, if its meanings might there also include place, crossroad, or settlement in Vanuatu.

Terry Crowley's NEW BISLAMA DICTIONARY lists kona, and also KONA GET - gate with narrow opening at gatepost to allow people (but not livestock) to get through without having to open the gate itself KONA KIK - [sport] corner ball...

On Tanna, we also had FO KONA -- which referred to a type of rectangular corned beef tin, and the FO KONA movement -- a 1970s political excitement that claimed to comprise the four corners of the island and of the world.

lukim yu, Lamont Lamont Lindstrom 30 Sep 2001