EASTERN HIGHLANDS OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA
ART & CULTURAL HERITAGE
Art and Craft
Primitive art has been around since time immemorial and still remains an important part of modern day villages. The skill and art of producing fine artifacts and crafts were passed down through generations from which its intricate designs have been influenced by the environment and religion.
Certain art depicts some form of traditional
deity that a particular society worshipped and believed that having an imitation
of this god or spirit being could ward off evil spirits, bring abundant produce
in the gardens, make someone a successful fisherman or hunter, cause a tribe to
be victorious during a tribal fight and fertility.
In traditional Eastern Highland's societies, certain people were given the task of producing such art work and is usually dominated by men. However, with education and a lot of attractive employment opportunities in the country and churches discouraging traditional religious practices, interest in art making has reduced considerably. There are some people who create artifacts for a hobby or sell at the local craft market to earn a living. These are usually the older people or young men from the hinterlands of the province.
Artwork is found on house gables and posts, shields, kundu (traditional musical drums), kangar (pole used in traditional dances), masks and wicker trays. Even though they may look ordinary, art holds spiritual and ceremonial meaning amongst traditional villages.
No two artifacts are the same and since they are
individually made by hand, they are quite unique.
Bilums (traditional string bags) were once made from fibres taken from barks of trees (pandanus and tulip trees). These barks were pounded until the fibres came loose then dried in the sun and twisted with traditional dyes taken from plants. Although traditional fibred bilums are still made - the more common ones are those made from imported wool strings. Women specialise in bilum making but their are some men who have taken a keen interest in bilum making as well.
A completed bilum depends on the weaver, the size and the design/pattern weaved. If a weaver is good at it, a bilum can be completed in a few weeks or perhaps days. Their beautiful and complicated designs are truly impressive and stunning.
Bilums serve as a multi-purpose accessory, from carry garden produce to other heavy household loads, it remains a convenient item for village women and is also used for hold sleeping babies while their mothers work in the gardens.
Today, it is a fashion statement among the women
and is a source of pride when one owns more than one bilum.
Moreover, fashion designers are incorporating bilum art with international designs to create a more modern and contemporary look in the international fashion scene.
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