Friday, September 9, 2011

Bilums, bilums, bilums


A fundraising exhibition for the mother and child health clinic of the Paiga community, Eastern Highlands PNG.

TUESDAY 27 SEPT 2011 6-8PM
In the Project Room

Exhibition 27 SEPT – 15 OCT

Statement from organiser, community worker Paul van Reyk:

Take a flight from Port Moresby to the Eastern Highlands Province capital town, Goroka. Get on a PMV (mini-van, truck, ute) and bump head to Okapa on a road, which depending on the rains and how recently anyone's had money or energy to fix it will either be a reasonable gravel road or a series of potholes, wash-aways, and bogs, till you get to Ke Efu (ask the driver or any of the passengers cause it won't be signposted). Then trek for several hours, depending on your fitness and the state of the track, up and up and up then along the ridges through forest and hamlets, spectacular views to both sides of you, to Paigatasa, an area of scattered market gardens and bush material round huts housing 6000 people 2000 metres above sea level.

Like much of remote PNG, this area remains shamefully underserviced in health. Women and children still regularly die during childbirth for lack of access to midwives and hospital beds. Six years ago the community decided to do something about it. They asked Paul van Reyk, an Australian community worker, one of the first ‘white men’ to travel into the area since PNG independence, to help them build a clinic to deliver community mother and child health programs.

Since then, the women have been making bilums for sale to raise funds for the clinic and to supplement the meagre income they get from small coffee plantings. Contact with Western culture, materials and markets, have changed these gathering and market bags from brown bush material open styles to vibrantly coloured synthetic yarn close weave styles that play with the products and signage of their contact and development experiences. From bank logos to religious texts, football colours to mobile phone advertisements, anything and everything is used in these exuberant, individual creations without any hint of irony or embarrassment.
Money raised through sales at the exhibition will go directly 50% to the maker of the billum, and 50% to the mother and child clinic.

More information on Paiga and the project:
See images of the bilums on our facebook page