This is a compilation a friend sent me of all the different ways bilums are used. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did!
I've seen them used as upper body coverings for women who want to be more modest in singsings.
I almost forgot the single mose important use ever of a bilum in PNG. In 1997 the Finongan people used one as a means of delivering a note to us requesting a translator come and translate the Bible into their language.
They were used to catch fish in a stream near Areinduk village.
They are used to express friendship and relationship when given as gifts.
They have been used a sermon illustration explaining how we are like tree bark that is striped off its place of origin, washed and shredded and twisted into string then woven into something useful; a bilum.
PNG kids use them as their school bags.
I have seen them used to hold baby pigs to keep them from running off. The pigs even sleep in them.
I've seen many people wear them on their head, draped over, or even head inside to shield from sun or rain.
Carrying empty bottles to the river, then full bottles from the river. Carrying dirty dishes to the river, then carrying the clean dishes back. Carrying laundry. Jeepers, you could carry almost anything in a bilum!
The Baining women have used them before for clothing and older women still wear them - one draped over each side to dance at the periphery of a firedance.
They also use them for catching freshwater shrimp and crabs by hooking them between their feet at the mouth of the bilum.
"Babies" can be up to 4 years old and still carried in a bilum.
I was given a piece of bilum thread by one group to indicate that there was work yet to be done.
They are given as gifts, sometimes swapped to show friendship.
When I tell people at home that they are used to carry babies, they think that is really weird (carrying a baby in a bag???) until I explain that it is like a hammock and quite comfortable for them.
When I tell people in the village that we have no bilums in my home country, they wonder how we can live life.
Believe it or not, I saw a woman in the village carry her TWIN sleeping4-year olds in one bilum, on her head. I've also seen women carry dozens of coconuts in one bilum.