karang guni / kah-rahng goo-nee, ˈkɑrɑŋ ˈɡuniː
The modern day ‘rag and bone man’ of Singapore is called the “Karung guni” man/woman. They can be seen visiting residences door-to-door collecting old newspapers and discarded electrical appliances. The karung guni industry is very profitable due to the dense urban nature of Singapore.
The term “Karung guni” comes from Malay phrase for gunny sack, which was used in the past to hold newspapers, and other agricultural products. The gunny sack is an inexpensive bag made of burlap or other natural fibers. The “gunny” portion of the name ultimately descends from Sanskrit guṇa, “thread”/”fiber”.
The karung guni practitioners will normally go around estates in singapore using a horn and shouting “karung guni, poh zhua gu sa kor, pai leh-lio, dian si ki…” (“Rag and bone, newspapers and old clothes, spoilt radios, televisions” in Singlish and Hokkien)
Kurang guni man in Tampines.
Take a look at this clip showing a modern day rag-and-bone man in UK. “Scrap metal. Any old iron”. It could almost be Singapore!
“A rag-and-bone man collects unwanted household items and sells them to merchants. Traditionally this was a task performed on foot, with the scavenged materials (which included rags, bones and various metals) kept in a small bag slung over the shoulder. Some wealthier rag-and-bone men used a cart, sometimes pulled by horse or pony.”
NB: The Jawas creatures from Star Wars (pictured above) are Tatooine’s version of rag-and-bone men.
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