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Singu Arts

Sepik River

Based amidst the wilderness of Papua New Guinea’s Sepik River, Singu Arts is the brainchild of Lina Singu. Passionate about traditional arts and culture from a young age, Lina established Singu Arts as a means of supporting herself and her son after leaving her husband. Singu Arts now works with around 700 weavers, many of them also single mothers supporting families. From her home village of Mamari, Lina’s bilum network snakes its way along the Sepik River, where she travels regularly to teach and support women in the remote Lower Sepik villages of Kampot and Chimodo.

“The mothers, they cannot come out to the town, so I still go and reach them…I’ll try to help them out, we just go look around, say, ‘don’t give up, you make a bilum.’”

– Lina Singu

Due of its remoteness, bilums from the Sepik River region are crafted using traditional materials and dyes that are foraged and prepared by hand. Fibrous plants including tulip, busrop and rapa are spun and twisted to make the intricate bags. Ginger, turmeric and the leaves of various native plants are harvested and ground to make the subtle dyes that characterise the unique, regionally specific designs.

Each section of the wending Sepik River has a distinct culture and language, reflected in the local bilum designs that connect people, stories and place. These regional designs are expressions of living culture passed down through the generations and they cannot be recreated by outsiders without express permission from the tribal headman.

The Middle Sepik, where Singu Arts is based, is renowned for the complex ‘minji’ design, which is crafted by permission of the headman and takes up to two weeks for a weaver to complete. Singu Arts has entered ‘minji’ bilums in the prestigious annual Goroka Bilum Festival, taking home the coveted award in 2014.

Ancient cultural traditions including sorcery are still alive and well along the Sepik River, where spirit houses feature prominently. Historically, bilums have played an important role in ceremonial practices, and each spirit house holds an ancestral bilum, said to house the ancestral spirits of the tribe.

Lina, a proud Yapma woman, is passionate about promoting her culture, working in cultural tourism as well as sourcing and exporting traditional cultural artifacts including bilums, wood carvings and jewellery to international buyers.

“I teach my country, Papua New Guinea, because I don’t want my culture to die away…I promote my culture because I love my culture.”

– Lina Singu


Lina’s passion and dedication have created opportunities for Singu Arts to commodify traditional cultural, bringing the international market to the remote Sepik River, and enabling the women of the region to support themselves and their families.