A piece of PNG

Bas­kets

Paradise - - Contents - – JOHN BROOKSBANK

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.

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