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Bilum (looped string bag)

circa 1960s


Unknown Artist

No image
  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Papua New Guinea
    Cultural origin
    probably Highlands people
    circa 1960s
    Media category
    Materials used
    plant fibre string, natural dyes
    23.5 cm height; 32.0 cm width across bottom (relaxed); handle 59.0 cm length
    Gift of Peter Sack 2016
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © under the endorsement of the Pacific Islands Museums Association's (PIMA) Code of Ethics
  • About

    Across Papua New Guinea the humble string bag, or 'bilum' in Tok Pisin, is the most common accessory of everyday life. Created using an interconnected looping technique from a single length of hand-spun plant fibre, the 'bilum' is almost always made by women. They vary in size from large expandable open-looped carryalls to small tightly-looped objects used as amulets or ceremonial objects. Patterns are looped into the overall fabric construction with fibres coloured with dyes extracted from flowers, berries and other plant sources.

    'Bilum' bags carried by women hold everything from firewood to babies. Men's 'bilum' keep ritual paraphernalia, heirlooms and items of everyday life, including pipes and tobacco.

    Today, women across the New Guinea highlands are producing contemporary 'bilum' with modern designs using colourful acrylic and wool yarns. The looping technique is also used to fashion spectacular clothing, known as 'bilumwear'. These new creations have established a sustainable means for highlands women to earn a living for their families.

  • Places

    Where the work was made

    Papua New Guinea