A bilum is a string bag made by hand in
Papua New Guinea. The bag can be made by a process known as string loopingor by crocheting. Traditionally, the string used was hand-made, normally from plant materials. Now, however, many people who can afford to do so make their bilums from store bought yarn and string.
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.
Whilst the traditional method of making bilums using woven plant reeds, is still widely spread across PNG, many villagers are now finding it easier to use wool based yarns to make their bags. This allows a greater diversity of color schemes to be incorporated into the making of the bilums, and are more highly sought after, due to their highly visible and different patterns and color combinations in each case.
Local men usually prefer to use long handle styles so they can be worn over the shoulder, freeing their arms for more important issues, like carrying important bush knives or to grab onto things while hiking mountains. The womenfolk often prefer the short handled versions that they can sling across their foreheads to carry greater loads, such as babies and/or large quantities of foodstuff (yams/potatoes/kau-kau etc.)
Either way, there is now a definite swing to the more vivid color/patterning styles that afford the bearer to be more distinctive in making his/her fashion statement.
The concept of bilums are very marketable overseas, and the French have now actually patented the "bilum" product, using recycled car seat belts, and other plastic materials to create their own version of the bilum.
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