MEET OUR ARTISANS
Selina is from Kaningara village in Angoram District, East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea. Selina now lives in Hohola in Port Moresby and is a single mother to two adopted girls; Naomi and Panina.
Selina lost her mother when she was 4 years old. From that early age, her father’s sister taught her how to make fibres to weave bilums. Growing up in a village along the Sepik river, Selina made bilums to sell to tourists, and when she was 22 moved to Port Moresby to find a bigger market for her products.
Selina is a full time artisan and her circumstances are reflective of many female artisans in Papua New Guinea. Sometimes she has money and other times she does not. She moves through a cycle of borrowing and repaying debt depending on her irregular market sales. She does not have savings or NasFund (PNG’s super annuation system) and exists hand to mouth, in an informal economy.
“I’m very happy working with Bilum & Bilas, as I receive a guaranteed income and I don’t have to rely on market sales. The Jewellery we are making now is something new, so I hope that more people will buy these styles and i’ll be able to continue getting work. We now have more secure working environment and benefits”
Betty is from Kaningara village in Angoram District, East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea. Betty is Selina’s sister and was 7 when their mother died. She first moved to Port Moresby with her husband and was later widowed with two children. When she remarried she had another child and bought some ground at Hohola where she now lives and supports a large family.
Betty learnt bilum weaving from her Aunty and has always woven bilums around her other responsibilities, to earn extra money to make ends meet.
“I have many family members relying on me and I had been out of work for some time. Working with Bilum & Bilas gives me financial security that I didn’t have. I like being able to use the skills my Aunt taught me to earn money and we work in a very pleasant environment, where we can work and story together.”
Maureen’s mother is from Chimbu and her father’s from Kairuku, Central Province and she was born in Goroka. When she was a child, Maureen began to copy her mother and Bubu (Grandmother) weaving bilums and made her first bilum when she was only 6 years old. After moving to Port Moresby and getting her first job, she stopped weaving bilums, but has started weaving again through her job with Bilum & Bilas.
“It’s been great to refresh my weaving and I have regained my interest in my traditional skills. I had put these to one side whilst working, but now I feel proud to be weaving again and being able to earn money from this skill I have. Bilum & Bilas is promoting our culture and helping us with designs that will get us better sales and better income.”
Jessica is from London, United Kingdom and has called Port Moresby home since 2008 when she came to Papua New Guinea as a volunteer. Jessica studied Social Anthropology at London School of Economics, before working in communications & events in fashion, TV and later, Non Government Organisations within Papua New Guinea. With a strong creative background, Jessica has applied her expertise to support Bilum & Bilas weavers with their designs and marketing.
“We are a team at Bilum & Bilas. Our range is about collaboration to make items of beauty in an ethical way, that celebrate tradition. We each bring different skill sets to a unique way of working with crafts and bilum in Papua New Guinea.”