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In Pidgin, one of the local languages in Papua New Guinea, the word “bilum” literally means “bag”.   Hence, Bilum handbags are intricately hand-woven native bags. Common materials are twines, twigs or dried-up leaves. Natural or synthetic fibers as well as the modern-day yarn or wool are likewise used.

These iconic string bags are painstakingly made through rhythmically-repeated twisting and looping of the yarn that requires dexterity and highly-controlled hand movement.

Handed down from decades of weavers, these local women, fondly referred to as “bilum mamas“, mastered the skills and techniques involved in this traditional craft. Hence, designs are all unique and reflect excellent craftsmanship that depict local and tribal heritage.

Bilums come in various sizes and designs. Its distinctive patterns often tell a story of the area where the weaver originates.  At times, designs also reflect local folklore about their respective area or region.  The intricate art and design in each bilum echoes the nationality and identity of the country itself.

Further, the patterns in each bilum resonates the country’s provenance, current events, and familial stories and are thus filled with layers of rich historical, cultural and symbolic significance.