Net bag (bilum)

Asmat peoples
20th century, 1950–2000
Artist Unidentified, Pacific Islander

Object Place: Papua (formerly Irian Jaya), Indonesia


Overall: 79(ind. handle and "fringe") x 31 x 23 cm (31 1/8 x 12 3/16 x 9 1/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Braided vine, dye

Not On View


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art, Textiles and Fashion Arts



Many objects, including netbags, came directly from the Asmat region to the United States through handicraft cooperatives and churches. Such centers helped revitalize declining art traditions and created economic opportunities for the Asmat. Common throughout New Guinea, these bags are versatile utilitarian objects, used to carry everything from food to babies. Though unassuming, they often convey strong mythical and symbolic meaning. The bags display motifs representative of the area of origin-here, geometric patterns, dyed in natural ochres and white, that resemble other Asmat designs


1980s, sold by the Cultural Revival Bazaar, Cambridge, MA, to Geneviève McMillan (b. 1922 - d. 2008), Cambridge, MA; 2008, to the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation, Cambridge; 2009, gift of the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation to the MFA. (Accession Date: June 17, 2009)

Credit Line

Gift of Geneviève McMillan in memory of Reba Stewart