Bilum Craft: Learning about Papua New Guinea

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One thing you will likely notice upon arriving in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is that the majority of people are carrying around bright, woven bags called “bilums.” These bags are made all over the country, although in different styles and patterns, and are worn by men and women (and children!) alike.

Bilums come a variety of shapes and sizes, and can be made of traditional string (made from plants, and sometimes featuring some fur), yarn (probably the most popular), or synthetic string (great for fishing or carrying wet loads).  Now you can even get a smaller “cell phone version” which you wear around your neck and is the perfect size to carry your cell phone!

bilumtext

They can be worn on the shoulder, horizontally across the shoulder, over the neck hanging across the chest, or even on the head (with the load on the neck/back).  You will see them used as purses to carry personal items but also to carry food and even babies!

Bilums are also given as gifts—I was given almost a dozen during my last week in PNG.  It is a way to show visitors “we care about you and are thankful you came” and is truly moving to receive a handmade bilum.

Bilumpresent

And now you can make your own!

makebilum

Materials

A piece of card

Crayon

Some string

Scissors

Glue

Markers

Pipe cleaners (for older kids)

Instructions

For Younger Kids

Draw a bilum shape on the card, and then cut pieces of string.  Glue on the bilum shape in whatever patterns you desire, and decorate as you wish!

While you are doing this craft with your child, you may like to talk about how each culture has special items and crafts they feel proud of and love to share with the world. What is an item from your cultural background you would like to share with others?

For Older Kids

Older kids may like to try this slightly more complicated version of a bilum craft.  Simply cut a billum shape out of cardboard, make holes with the tip of some scissors and give your child pipe cleaners or yard to string through as they please!  I found the best length of the bilum was slightly longer than a standard Crayola marker.  This enabled one pipe cleaner to make it through a whole line of holes.

Pipe cleaners are easier for little hands to use whereas yarn will provide more flexibility for older children.  Depending on the age, you can even make the holes very close together so they can do quite a bit of threading.  After they have a design with string they can use markers to fill in any gaps to decorate the rest of the bilum.  If you would like to browse pictures to get ideas of patterns before doing this activity, go here .

I hope you had fun seeing this simple bilum craft from Papua New Guinea!

The author of this post, Chelsea from Veritable Treasure, is running a series of posts about introducing the country of Papua New Guinea to children in an effort to raise funds for a teacher training in Papua New Guinea she has organized for September 2013.  She will be randomly selecting two fundraiser participants to receive a copy of Beautiful Rainbow World, a lovely CD from Daria Music. If you give any amount to the fundraiser please make a comment on THIS POST simply informing us that you donated and your name will go into the drawing to receive one of the two copies of Beautiful Rainbow World. Any amount great or small is much appreciatedTo learn more about the fundraiser she is holding for a teacher’s training in PNG and to donate please visit this page.

To check out the other posts in the series, which will give you some more background about the Papua New Guinea (including pictures of children!), as well as information about the fundraiser for the teacher’s training, go to this page to find the series.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Chelsea, I did a Dip Ed at the University of Papua New Guinea and taught school in Papua New Guinea in 1970s. I was shocked how few children went to primary school and even less students to secondary school and university. Thanks for you activities – for my grandson’s school project!!

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