MORRISET – Krungutim lain (twisting rope) is not a lost art. You have to twist the wool to make it stronger and reduce stretch. It’s also the world’s sexiest craft.
Cuban cigars used to be advertised with the catchline that they were 'rolled on the thighs of dusky maidens'. Well the same is true of traditional PNG bilums [strong bags].
And as the proud partner of a dusky maiden, I believe I have the right to reveal a few trade secrets.
When you have your rope you have to get weaving. This involves umbrella spokes. If you don't have any old umbrellas, wheely-wheely spokes will do. Then you just need a pair of pliers to make a hook. Then thread your rope.
Now comes the clever part. In the western world, it’s called crochet or tatting, but PNG women need no fancy words to ply their trade.
You interweave colours and patterns to make a basic shape and weave up from that to make a bag.
Then you add handles and stitch it all together.
This is a most amazing thing. Papua New Guinean women do this from instinct and memory - there are no printed instructions. Given the interplay between mathematics and intricate patterns, I reckon PNG women are the untold mathematical geniuses of the world.
Bilums are the stock in trade for tens of thousands of PNG women. A good craftswoman can produce a bilum in a week, taking many hours of fine work.
The result is a thing of beauty. Bloody brilliant! Remember this the next time you are offered a bilum.
And don’t accept Chinese machine made fakes. This disrespects the effort of the women and the culture of PNG that they are maintaining.