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The Bilum: How Do You Carry Your Things?

Brooks Hall, Charlottesville, VA 22904, Charlottesville, VA 22903


  • Presented By: Brooks Hall
  • Dates: April 25, 2021
  • Location: Brooks Hall
  • Time: 8:00 PM to 7:59 PM
  • Price: : 0.00


The bilum is a type of looped net bag that is made, carried, and gifted in the Pacific Island nation of Papua New Guinea. Bilums are used to carry foods, hold sleeping babies, and make the wearer look stylish; American culture has no exact equivalent. Traditionally, bilums are woven with twine made from the bark of trees, with styles that vary from region to region. Today they are also made out of manufactured materials like acrylic yarn, and they incorporate new styles and designs.

Most of the bilums in this exhibit were made by women and given to Anthropology professors Lise Dobrin and Ira Bashkow during their fieldwork in Papua New Guinea. Curated by students in Dobrin’s spring 2020 course “Curating Culture: Collection, Preservation, and Display as Cultural Forms”, they are presented here in the spirit in which they were intended: to carry the story of the people who gave them out into the world.