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PNG's Bilum Industry : An Economic Leap Towards Taking Back PNG

By Menom A Barok

The Bilum Industry in PNG can suit economic, environmental, and cultural objectives in the country's development models.

PNG bilums can play a major role in the green economy of the region, and even on the global scale. The banning of pastic bag in shops can be the effective measure against carbon pollution, to which the usage of bilums as alternatives can boost local productivity and entrepreneurial opportunities. While Rwanda, Vanuatu, and other South American countries have propositions in place to fight plastic pollution, PNG should not be a reluctant player in this move. However, their outlook regards a carbon free environment only, but PNG can capitalize on this environmental drive to consolidate economic gains through commercializing bilum for domestic as well as international markets (for instance selling bilums to other countries as a measure against using of plastics in shops!).

Culture and fashion also comes into play. Bilum wears can be encouraged to feature in domestic & regional fashion shows and beauty contests. Our raw talents are vast yet they are underutilized due to limited demand. Bilum wears range from armbends to hats, from handbags to to shirts and even to full blown dresses with fixed hems.

While tourism in the country may still be struggling with its own set of challenges, this does'nt mean that our bilum arts should be limited to domestic consumption alone. The Karkar Bilum Festival and Goroka Bilum Festival are the two annual events that were gaining momentum and recently had tilted tourist attraction to a whole new perspective. However, we need all of our provinces to stage their own bilum festivals for a much bigger tourist attraction. SME capital funding, workshops and festivals and other events, and a healthy supply chain, should be estiblished for this Industry.

Sharlene Gawi, the Owner & Operator for Bilum Culture, encourages women to be economically independent by their utilizing their bilum weaving skills. She helps the bilum weavers to find external markets to sell their bilum products. Currently, she is helping the weavers from Karkar to export their bilums overseas .

This is one of her most inspiring Bilum philosophy:
"let us each consider ourselves as a single thread with our own distinct colours. If were woven together, our different colours can form the single but yet the most colourful & beautiful bilum ever."

PC: KingJosh Imagez & Narad Image

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