Among Equals: Bilum Bags from Papua New Guinea
The Koskela Gallery is pleased to present Among Equals: Bilum Bags from Papua New Guinea
Among Equals is a brand built to empower women in Papua New Guinea. Founder Caroline Sherman states: "With my background in textile design, I saw an opportunity to work with the Bilum weaving communities to help bring their bags to a wider international audience.
My focus is to work with a few communities of incredible Bilum weavers to grow the industry so that it will become a much more stable and viable form of income for the women and their families, now and for future generations.
A hundred percent of profits from Bilum sales go back to the Bilum weavers, creating sustainable incomes for the women, or to projects in PNG that I am currently working on, such as building the Blue Haus where the women can come together to weave, eat and take shelter.
There is something so amazing and unique about each bag – each one has its own meaning and its own story. The women tell stories as they weave. For instance, when you get married your mother weaves you a diamond-design Bilum, when you own a piece of land you receive a mountain design. There are fertility symbols, animals, guns, poker machines, computers and even 2 Minute noodles! Every bag has its own narrative.
The Highlands of PNG are incredibly beautiful, and home to many Tribal groups and languages, but horrific violence against women is endemic. Conditions for the women and their families are harsh. There is often no electricity, running water, or other infrastructure that we take for granted, poor housing, and limited access to healthcare and education, especially for girls.
The main form of income for the women working with Among Equals is sales from Bilum. Every bag sold helps to improve the women’s circumstances and lift their families’ lives."
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The money from Among Equals to the Goroka Bilum weavers has enabled the women to pay for all the little girls to attend school. Your support has meant that we can pay for our healthcare, our traditional obligations and the things we need for our home. It has made a huge difference to us.
— Florence Jaukae Kamel, Liaison weaver, Among Equals.