We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Bilum (looped string bag)

mid 20th century
collected 1964


Unknown Artist

No image
  • Details

    Other Title
    Billum bag
    Place where the work was made
    Okapa (Moke) Okapa District Eastern Highlands Province Papua New Guinea
    Cultural origin
    Fore people
    mid 20th century
    collected 1964
    Media category
    Materials used
    looped plant-fibre string, pale red and brown plant dye
    42.0 x 44.0 cm looped bag, expandable :

    0 - Whole, 42 cm (16 9/16"), height at side seam

    0 - Whole, 41 cm (16 1/8"), width across bottom edge

    0 - Whole, 44 cm, diameter across top opening

    Gift of Stan Moriarty 1977
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Fore people, 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', is the most common accessory of everyday life. 'Bilum' are almost always made by women, created using a looping technique with a single length of hand-spun plant fibre. They vary in size from large expandable open-looped carryalls to small tightly looped objects used as amulets or ceremonial objects. Patterns are incorporated into the construction using coloured fibres dyed with extracts from flowers, berries and other plants.

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

    Today, women produce '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.

    [Exhibition text for 'Plumes and pearlshells: art of the New Guinea highlands', AGNSW, 2014]

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 2 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 1 publication