According to the Kwoma people’s custom, women may not participate in painting or carving, the main art forms in their culture. They are active in the “handicrafts” of ceremonial attire and shell adornments, pottery and weaving. Women weave bilums (string bags) from natural hand rolled ‘bush rope’ or from brightly coloured wool yarn or nylon string bought in nearby markets. The woven patterns of bilums follow traditional designs linked to clan emblems as well as references to nature and modern patterns.
Working together with a group of village women Shiva Lynn Burgos developed the Women’s Tapestry Initiative using embroidered tapestry as a means for artistic expression by stitching the wool onto a substrate vinyl mesh that has a commercial purpose as mosquito netting. Together Burgos and the group created a series of these tapestries which combine representational symbols, such as fish and birds, together with bilum-style motifs and contemporary designs to create a new art form in which women can participate fully.
The transparent nature of the material allows for a unique choice of presentation models. These can include multiple layering, dynamic sculptural installations and using lighting effects to form shadows.