Bilum bags were traditionally made from the inner bark of several trees indigenous to new Guinea. The bark would be soaked for a good length of time and then separated into fiber strings that are rolled tight to produce yarn. The bags are made in two methods – knotless netting or crocheting. The dyes come from pulverized stone, mud, jungle grasses and roots. The dyeing patterns are derived from traditional local motifs. The size of Bilum bags size would vary according to what they were used for. The large ones, like this example, were used by women to carry babies, with the handles slung across the forehead and the bag on the back. As is often the case, bilum bags are still made nowadays but their quality is greatly diminished and most often they are made of wool.
Circa: 20th century
Origin: New Guinea
Condition: One small repair, very good
Dimensions: 45" x 56" without the straps
Inventory number: WR3771