Image Source: Mijts Blog
Many years ago, Paul Kopi was taught how to make baskets. He learnt the art when he was about 12 years old.
The knowledge and skills originally came from Bougainville.
A few of his uncles who worked as plantation laborers, learned how to weave the baskets and passed it on to their children.
“I must have been about 12 or 13 when they taught us.”
After more than 50 years, the knowledge that came from so far away has spread to much of the Highlands.
According to Mr. Kopi, the Southern Highlanders also played an important role in passing on the skill to the Eastern Highlanders. One of his relatives, a teacher, introduced basket weaving in schools in Goroka.
“He taught a few people in Goroka how to make the baskets. So the knowledge came from Ialibu.”
Aside from the bilum, this has become one of the most recognisable Papua New Guinean art forms.
But the journey has not been easy. Without a steady flow of tourist, Mr. Kopi struggles to make at least K500 a month.