By Memo Hauke
TIMOTHY Pula, is a Southern Highlander who has been selling arts and crafts for more than 20 years in PNG
In the early 1990s, he was at his Wapisumi village in Kagua district when he came up with the idea of selling locally-woven baskets and bilum.
He had no formal education as he left school at an early age.
“I did not know how to weave bilum or basket but I knew people who did. Communication in our vernacular language was how to talk and make business and I was good at that,” Pula said.
“The idea of reselling it came across my mind. I wanted to venture into that business and made arrangements with the weavers.”
But first he had to find a reliable market to sell the products. He knew it wouldn’t be a one-off thing so he chose to sell in Morobe.
He said he knew he would still make a profit from there.
The bilum from Kagua sell at between K10 and K15 each.
The baskets were from Ialibu district in Southern Highlands, mainly in Kirene, Omeai and Ponowi. They sell for K12 to K15 per basket.
“The village people over there are very gifted in crafting the baskets even today,” Pula said.
In 1996, he made his first trip to Lae and sold all the woven artifacts in a day.
The prices ranged from K50 to K60. He made a good profit because there was little competition.
From there on the sales increased until he saw the need to try out Port Moresby.
He left his family and travelled to Port Moresby in 1999 to continue selling because the products were on demand.
The highlight of his career as a carving salesman was when he travelled with the late David Basua, a former MP for the Kagua-Erave distric in 2000 to Fiji.
As years went by, the prices of baskets and bilum increased but the costs too rose.
“I couldn’t sell woven baskets and bilum anymore. Even the competition for bilum weavers and sellers in the city grew so high that I had to change the products I was going to sell. If not my business will make a loss.”
Pula decided to start networking with carving weavers from around the country to assist him by bringing in artifacts to sell at the Port Moresby craft market at Boroko.
He is now selling different types of arts and crafts.
He said profit was not much but whatever he could save he sent to his family in the village.
“I love what I do and enjoy seeing our unique arts and crafts that make our country unique.”
Pula is married to a Ialibu woman and they have five children. The eldest son is with him in Port Moresby to improve his Grade 10 marks. The other four children are with their mother in Ialibu.
He is very happy with the Government for supporting the SME sector.
He however urged authorities to look at how the small people are selling on streets in Boroko.
“Yes money is given to the National Development Bank but we need a shelter and a proper place to market our arts and crafts,” he said.
“A clear example is the shops like the ones at Lot 60 in Gordons and Erimart at Erima in Port Moresby. We can sell our products and pay rentals. We do not have shelter when it rains. We gather our arts and crafts and run for shelter or go home.”
Pula said tourists avoided the Boroko craft market for security reasons.
“When they visit the craft market, they are escorted by bodyguards. This is not good and the Government must look into that.”
By Memo Hauke