CMAG Staff Collections

7 February - 31 May
Cabinets of Curosities Open Collection


In 2006 I visited my daughter and her family in Goroka, a town in the Eastern Highlands Province of PNG. I returned with many bilums, some I had received
as gift/exchange, and others I bought to give as gifts on my return to Australia.

Bilums are worn across the shoulder or head. This useful accessory carries everything from food to babies. Designs are shared among makers and often depict significant community events. The bilum at the far right of the display
depicts the arrival of power lines across country.

Bilums are culturally significant and often used in ritual and informal and formal gifting. The colourful patterns created with store-bought yarn often symbolize significant community events and may be read as documents of social history.

Bilum making provides a creative outlet and a source of economic independence for women in PNG. The dynamic nature of the craft and the ingenuity of its practitioners will convey this ancient craft into the twenty-first century.

Dale Middleby
Senior Curator of Social History


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