Weaving Bilum

The Asia Foundation and Google Arts & Culture wanted a full virtual exhibit of video and photography as a digital cultural preservation of the craft of Bilum weaving in Papua New Guinea. The Google Arts and Culture media gallery serves a dual purpose: to preserve a tradition that is at risk of being lost, and to showcase and bring to the center of attention a craft and means to economic empowerment so that leaders in the Asia Pacific region may be swayed to prioritize inclusive growth and digital technologies.

Client: Google Arts & Culture Director: Samuel Díaz Fernández


The Challenge

Traditional Bilum weaving is done by women in remote parts of Papua New Guinea. We traveled three hours by van from a base city in the Eastern Highlands to a remote village who had never received foreigners and had no electricity, and we had to film all of the Bilum weaving in just one morning.


The Execution

We spent time with the local community to build relationships for the projects the night before, and woke up at the crack of dawn to begin filming. The weather was rainy, and the mud slippery so we had to ensure the safety of all of our equipment as we followed our main subject through the bushes.


The Impact

The video was displayed as part of a larger exhibit on Google Arts & Culture about Bilum. The virtual exhibit was launched at APEC Leaders Week to showcase how digital technology can help bring access to market for women in underrepresented communities.

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We originally planned to film entirely outdoors but the unexpected rain forced us indoors, which in the end allowed us to get more intimate, tight,shots. In addition to our film crew, we had police guards, other villagers, our translator, and either other people in the hut, while the rest of the villagers watched from outside!

Justin Gilman