Bag it

The cheap "China bag" has become a symbol of migration in Africa – and a popular material for artists and designers to reimagine.

In South Africa it is known as the "China bag", in East Africa as the "Ghana-must-go" but for many Africans across the continent and further afield it is the most convenient and cheap way to lug around a heavy load – be it luggage, laundry, shopping or wares to be sold by informal traders.

So ubiquitous are the woven chequered bags at taxi depots, train stations, street markets and shopping outlets that they have become symbols of our transient, on-the-move lifestyles. In South Africa, where they are used widely by locals moving between rural and urban areas and by African immigrants, they are redolent of migration, displacement and survival.

So it's no wonder the iconic  bag has inspired many designers, who have reimagined its patterned polypropylene material for both social commentary and luxurious fashion statements.

In this Lookbook we round up artworks, fashion items, accessories and homeware pieces from across the globe that transform the tartan bag.