Cathy Kata – a cat walk on the highlands

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Cathy Kata lives in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, in Goroke. Like a number of other PNG makers, she has adapted traditional bilum weaving techniques to clothes and fashion. Her seamless skirts and tops are made with the same hand-looped, woven in the round techniques as bags.

Cathy decided to leave her career as the secretary of an academic department at the University of Goroka and focus on becoming a bilum designer, venturing into bilum fashion wear. Her husband, Joseph Kata, admires her creativity and said that the opportunity for Cathy to take up a Jolika Fellowship in San Francisco gave her valuable exposure to other artists and designers. She is now preparing for a fashion show in the UK, working with other women in her home village in the Eastern Highlands fashioning the garments.

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High fashion garments are now proudly worn by beauty contestants in Miss PNG, Miss Melanesia and Miss Hiri Hanemano competitions, beauty contestants and in fashion parades like the annual Red Cross Miss PNG Ball, which attracting big media coverage.

Cathy’s work is remarkable in many ways. First, they have been able to translate powerful designs into beautifully shaped garments. Second, she is able to complete the transformation from craft to fashion herself. Cathy is part of an emerging generation of makers able to translate their own traditional culture into modern forms.

Cathy Kata is referred to in an article about bilum-wear for the After the Missionaries issue of Artlink. With luck, her work will also be part of the World of Small Things (still waiting for it to get through customs).

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