Susan Cochrane


The bilum (there are, no doubt, seven hundred different words for it in the languages of the country) is part of the persona of New Guinean women.1 She makes it herself, knotting the mesh with skilful fingers. The handles are long enough to fit across the top of her forehead. When empty, the bilum covers the shoulders like a half-cape; full, the mesh stretched to the limit with firewood or sweet potatoes, it can carry thirty or more kilograms. It is a treasured personal item — an infant’s cradle, a shopping basket, and a delivery van propelled by womanpower, head bent, shoulders bowed under its weight.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.