bilum

Yabem: abilung.

Ross (1992:378) suggests with ‘reasonable certainty’ that this is from Yabem abilung, in Jabm orthography, ablN (Streicher 1982:2).

Ross further observes ‘the netbag is not a traditional item in Tolai culture, and the term was apparently brought back home by Tolai labourers working on the German plantations around Finschhafen, where Yabem is spoken natively. Deletion of the Yabem initial a- is apparently due to its reinterpretation as the Tolai article a’.

Bilum-making is widespread across the mainland of New Guinea; exceptions: in the southern part of Western Province bilums are replaced by baskets, as they are in most areas of the New Guinea islands. In most bilum areas, only women and girls make them; exceptions: traditional Huli men make their own. MacKenzie (1991) is a key ethnographic source.

See original Mihalic entry.

Natural fibre bilums on sale in Madang.
[photo credit: Andy Newlin]

Noun forms

  1. Material culture: netbag or string bag kep2, rop
    meri tanim rop bilong bilum long lek bilong em the woman is twisting bilum string on her leg

  1. Material culture: any article of clothing made of bilum material
    meri i pasim bilum the woman is wearing a net covering (e.g. Gogodala - Crawford 1981)
    ol man Hagen i pasim bilum na singsing Hagen men wear string aprons when they dance (see Strathern & Strathern 1971)

  1. Physiology: womb
    pikinini i no slip gut long bilum the foetus is not positioned correctly in the womb

  1. Medicine: the placenta, afterbirth
    sapos bilum i pas long bel bilong mama, yu mas karim em long haus sik hariap if the afterbirth fails to come out, you must bring the mother to hospital immediately

  1. Physiology: marsupial’s pouch
    kapul i gat bilum, dok i no gat marsupials have pouches, dogs do not

  1. Society: matrilateral kin (e.g. Upper Watut where ka, ‘bilum’ contrasts with kwaika, ‘spear’ or agnatic kin) kandere, kas2
    em i no lain bilong man, em i kamap long bilum he is not an agnate, he is descended [from the lineage founder] through a woman


Revising the Mihalic Project, 26 Jan 2005 [Home]