The sale of these splendid (and strong) string bags and other products based on bilum design is putting money into the hands of many creative and hard-working women who sustain this national art
DAGUA - The bilum is no ordinary string bag. It is part of the Papua New Guinea persona.
It is part of our identity. It is a national symbol. It is a shared experience in our diversity.
Papua New Guinea bilum designs are unique to our country.
Each region and most ethnic groups have their own designs that are a source of great pride and cultural integrity.
Designs have evolved over the years to encompass a myriad of intricate patterns, motifs, treatments and colours.
This intricate twining and weaving of string is traditionally the work of women.
In modern times the availability of multi-coloured wool and foreign interest in the art has seen the bilum trade boom.
Imported wool has given freedom to bilum weavers to create an even greater array of designs and colours.
Goroka and some other towns have become the centres of a thriving bilum industry.
Goroka is known for the first production and organised commercial imprint of bilum design and billum-wear in the mid-2000s.
The sale of these splendid (and strong) string bags and other products based on bilum design is putting money into the hands of many creative and hard-working women who sustain this national art.
They are creators and guardians of a quite spelndid national symbol.
Bilum-wear, mainly women’s bilum dresses, are also hand-woven in the tradition of bilum making.
The progenitor of fashion design is Goroka-based entrepreneur, Florence Jaukae.
In a recent Facebook post, she has called out the theft and importation from other countries of cheap bilum-inspired printed fabrics for retail sale.
The bilum designs were originally created through the ingenuity of our forebears and our now created by our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters.
This property of our culture is being brazenly stolen and mass produced on the cheapest of fabrics with crude and meaningless designs. They are no better than laplaps.
This seems to be a clear infringement of fair trade and intellectual property rights.
Someone for selfish reasons and monetary gain has stolen bilum designs or badly copied them to imprint on cheap fabric.
This is made into meri-blouses, dresses and shirts and defraud our bilum designers and weavers and remove their means of income.
This misappropriation of traditional designs infringes women’s rights of ownership over their designs and is now putting the billum-wear industry in jeopardy.
The bilum designs belong to Papua New Guinean women and should be a protected industry.
Citizens and foreigners alike should not take advantage of the cultural universality of the bilum to steal this important and useful artefact and symbol of our unique Melanesian identity.