Bilum & Bilas is a social enterprise offering an exotic collection of one-of-a-kind, handcrafted bilums, jewellery and homewares from the tropics of Papua New Guinea.
Established out of a passion for Papua New Guinea, it's people and their arts, Bilum & Bilas exists to support the economic empowerment of PNG women and girls.
Bilums and jewellery are mostly made by women in Papua New Guinea who sell them for income to support their families. We operate by creating an additional income stream for these women and helping strengthen their businesses by opening up international markets and sharing marketing and design ideas in cross-cultural exchange. All products in our collection are ethically sourced and traded fairly in sensitive and dignified partnership directly with women’s groups and female artisans.
We strongly believe that it is through education that Papua New Guinean women will become empowered and able to negotiate equality. Unfortunately, in PNG where poverty is high and education expensive, families often give preference to boys education. The Business and Professional Women's Club of Port Moresby (www.bpwpng.org) provides scholarships for disadvantaged women and girls to enable them to continue their studies and complete further education. Bilum & Bilas gives 50% of it's profits to the BPW to support their initiatives and assist more PNG women obtain further education and secure future opportunities.
By buying products from Bilums & Bilas you are helping us support women and girls in PNG as they work to support themselves and their families.
Bilum & Bilas is a member of the Fair Trade Association of Australia.
Some of the suppliers we work with so far are:
Hagen Handicraft Group (www.hagenhandicraftgroup.com); Nakoko Designs; Overcomers Arts & Crafts; Pacific Primitive Art; Oro Tapa.
If you are a PNG women's group, or female artisan and/or entrepreneur and interested in becoming a supplier, please contact us through our contact page.
What are bilums and bilas?
Bilums are more than a bag, they are a national and cultural icon within Papua New Guinea. The name bilum comes from the word meaning womb and bilums are used to carry babies, firewood and food, demonstrating how inalienable and central they are to the clan and society. They are a symbol of belonging and personal expression.
Traditionally, bilums were made from natural fibre called "bush rope" produced using the technique of hand rolling plant materials together along the knee. The string fibres could then be handwoven into plain bilums, or coloured using natural dyes blended from berries, leaves and mud and handwoven into bilums with patterns. Depending on the tribe, or region of Papua New Guinea, bilums vary greatly in weaving techniques, shapes, patterns and materials. Today, with the availability of imported wool, bilum weaving has evolved to include vivid and brightly coloured styles with endless patterns.
Bilas is the genetic term used in Papua New Guinea to describe decoration, adornment or jewellery and can also be used to describe objects or products that decorate the home.
Traditionally, shells, pigs tusk, dog and crocodile teeth and feathers fashioned as bilas, or adornment were used as displays of wealth, traded and given as bride price payments.
In Papua New Guinea the traditional form of currency for exchange was kina shell money. The value place on kina shell is still so great that even today the national currency is named the Kina. Jewellery and bilas that features kina shells are considered highly desirable and good kina shell can be quite expensive.
The jewellery and accessories (bilas) in our collection is a careful selection of some of the finest styles currently available. While there are many extremely elaborate items one can visualise in displays, we have chosen pieces that can be worn and enjoyed as jewellery and accessories everyday!