Lina Kubu is the owner of Chimbu Ambai, a curated collection of Papua New Guinea (PNG) artisan craft. Lina has been operating a pop-up stall at South Melbourne Market since 2019 offering a range of handmade, sustainable bilums, baskets and other woven items. The products are sustainable, eco-friendly and directly support PNG communities.
What inspired you to set up your business?
My mother. She makes the bilums and my auntie, that’s where it came from. I added a few more things to it like the baskets. Predominately it’s my mum who’s very creative with making bilums so that’s where it started.
Why did you apply to have a pop-up stall at South Melbourne Market?
Because we’d been shopping here since 1996, it’s local and it’s a versatile market with not only food but retail. I just felt that it might be the right fit. I wasn’t 100% sure as my business is a very new concept for both the Market and for Melbourne, the first of its kind. It was a risky move but I thought if it was received well here then it might be a good thing to continue with.
Your bilums are unique and feature a lot of different designs. Can you tell us a bit more about them?
They are very distinctive! The patterns and material used to create the bilums is dependant on what province and village they represent. I’m just really blessed some of my uncles have married into different regions. We visit each of the villages because it costs a lot of money for the artisans to travel into the city, so this way they don't need to travel or spend money to showcase their products. The area is incredibly terraneous, and the villages not easy to get to, which is why so many people don't do it. The baskets in particular are so hard to transport within Papua New Guinea, let alone bring them to Australia. It has just never been done before now.
The baskets are beautifully designed. Can you tell us a bit more about them?
The actual material used to make the baskets grows wild in PNG, and it is also used to make houses. It is mainly the men that make the baskets. The baskets will last a lifetime, and can be used for various things such as laundry baskets, planters or home decoration.
What do you hope that your customers learn about your products?
That the goods are handmade, high-quality, unique and made with sustainable materials by artisans in remote villages in PNG. Just knowing that a person has made the product from harvesting the materials right through to actually finishing it makes it so valuable and adds that human element to it. I think Papua New Guinea has a lot to offer (even more than bilums and baskets) and I feel privileged to be able to share their crafts with Australian customers and see the appreciation from people that do purchase from my stall. COVID-19 has been very hard for PNG with no travel and no tourists, and we were lucky to receive our shipment last year, so I am glad to be able to share this. I’d love to see a product in everyone’s home made in Papua New Guinea.
You can find Chimbu Ambai for a limited time in SO:ME Space, Centre Aisle, Stall 155 (opposite the lift).