A piece of PNG
TRADI TONA LLY SPEA KIN G
Baskets made from rattan cane, coconut, bamboo and other fibres were traditionally made for a variety of purposes, including food gathering and storage, furnishings, garments and ceremonial uses. While it is an old craft, basketry is a tradition that continues to thrive as an art form, which often combines both utilitarian and aesthetic qualities.
A CULTURA L AND FAS HION STATEMEN T
Baskets can play a significant role in maintaining cultural traditions and tribal/group identities. For example, in East New Britain and New Ireland, their distinctive coconut baskets differentiate village identities – simply by noticing a basket and the way it is carried, one can infer the village of the owner. These coconut-frond baskets were often made for short-term use to carry food, and today are also seen on the streets of places like Kokopo as a ‘style’ accessory to carry betel nut, cigarettes and other items.
WHERE ARE BAS KETS MADE ?
Baskets are made all over the country, but those most commonly seen in craft shops in Port Moresby, other main centres and on display on road sides outside the main city hotels are predominantly from the Ialibu area of the Southern Highlands Province.
WHY ARE THERE SO MAN Y DIFFERENT SHAPES AND SI ZES ?
They vary because they are made for specific purposes. Shapes differ, for example, for baskets made for collecting shellfish or crabs; storage for dried, cooked or freshly caught fish, vegetables; and containers for clothes.
WHO MAKES BAS KETS?
Throughout the Pacific region, basket making has been the domain of women, who spend a good part of their day working with fibres, weaving and plaiting floor coverings, food wrappers, cooking containers, storage and carrying baskets, as well as special baskets for ceremonial events.
HOW ARE THEY DECORATED?
Geometric patterns are most commonly used throughout Melanesia because of the nature of weaving itself, but villagers have been very adept at creating a multitude of designs by using different plaiting techniques. Ceremonial baskets generally showcase the more intricate geometric or openwork patterns that belong to specific tribes, clans or island groups. Different types of pandanus – with their varying colours, sizes and leaf shapes – produce distinctive colours and textures when woven into mats, baskets and other goods.
HOW DO THEY GET THEIR COLOUR?
Some societies are known for their use of colour – for example distinctive red and purple natural pigments and variations in colour produced from the local berries, roots, bark or minerals. More recently, the introduction and use of modern commercial dyes, which provide more vivid colours, has transformed the palette and creativity of the fibre arts along with the use of new synthetic materials, including packaging tape and raffia.
WHERE TO BUY THEM?
Apart from retail outlets, you will find mats and baskets for sale at cultural events held around the country, such as the Mount Hagen, Goroka and Morobe shows. To appeal to tourists, the range of woven items has expanded to include place mats and trays.
WHY BUY THEM?
Expressing your support for this traditional craft by buying and, importantly, using, a woven mat or basket boosts national tourism initiatives and, who knows, may even reduce the number of plastic bags.