Monday, December 17, 2007

I am going to tell you a story ...

Talking about slow art, I want to tell you the story about bilum.

A bilum is a specially woven bag worn and used by women in Papua Niugini. I lived in the Highlands for four years in the early '70's. The bilums are made in groups, rather like a quilting bee, where mothers, daughters, aunties and friends (wontoks) sit around in a group, making the threads for the bilums and then weaving them. The thighs are shaved of hair and the area used to twist two threads together. New threads are joined in this way so that each bilum is effectively one long thread. The weaving is done by using a darning or wool needle and a small wooden stick, like a tongue depressor or ice cream stick. The most valuable ones are plastic of the same size.

We sit around making bilum, and talking, gossiping about people who we know, laughing and joking. Sometimes we will sing a song, usually a little ditty mocking someone we know. Occassionally a mother with a baby or baby piglet will pull out a breast and feed it. We often laugh and gently mock. It is our way. And our bilums get made.

We use the bilums to collect our coffee beans from the trees to take to the roaster. We use them to collect our vegetables from our gardens. We carry our babies. Sometimes we send them to the market for the foreigners to buy.

Oh, yes. In the making of bilum, there is much slow art, there is a story with each one.

This was the original way all crafts for our lives were made, this is a community way that should return.

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