A bilum is a string bag made by hand in Papua New Guinea, using a string looping technique. Traditionally, the string used was hand-made, from plant material – the bark of a plant called “lepa”. Now, however, most bilums are made from store bought brightly coloured yarn and many contemporary patterns have become popular, even those generated by computer.
Bilums are used to carry a wide range of items, from shopping goods in large bilums to personal items in purse-sized varieties. Mothers often carry their babies in bilums, and the bilum is said to be “womb-like” and associated with security and reassurance for a baby. In the past, bilums were used to carry food home after gardening or hunting. Bilums were also used to decorate an area where a dead person would be laid for viewing. Another really important and significant use of bilums was as contributions to the payment of the bride price. Bilums remain as a prized gift to exchange with friends or visitors.
As I have recently returned from Papua New Guinea, I am very happy to offer a bilum and a wooden wall hanging depicting the national symbol, Bird of Paradise as a special giveaway to celebrate my 100th blog post. Both of these artifacts ( pictured) are handmade by friends who live in Mando, a village in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. All you need to do to be eligible for this unique gift is to leave a comment with your contact details. I will draw a name next Tuesday, 19 October, noon Australian Eastern Summer Time.