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Nigerian designer uses ‘Ghana Must Go’ bags to create iconic fashion pieces

Anyi N’aga- We Are Going by Chioma Obiegbu. Picture: Óbínnà Óbíomà.

Anyi N’aga- We Are Going by Chioma Obiegbu. Picture: Óbínnà Óbíomà.

Published Sep 7, 2023


Some call it “Ghana Must Go” bag, others say it’s a “Mashangaan bag” and those that disagree with the first two say it’s “Khonz’ekhaya”, but one thing is for sure, this bag is popular among Africans.

Ukhonz’ekhanya, as it is known in Zulu, is a strong plastic bag commonly used by Africans travelling long distances. They use this bag to carry heavy luggage, especially when going to the homelands after being in the city, where they work to feed their families.

Nigerian disciplinary artist Chioma Obiegbu, who collaborated with Óbínnà Óbíomà to curate "Anyi N’aga – We Are Going", gives more insight into the bag that is widely used on our continent.

“The blue and white or sometimes red, black and white checkered bags popularly known as Ghana Must Go in West Africa gained both popularity and an attachment to migration during the 1980s in Nigeria when millions of illegal Ghanian nationals were expelled from Nigeria.

“Many of them used the bags to pack up and courier their belongings back to Ghana, giving the bags their name,” said Obiegbu.

Working with a vast team of talented African creatives, Obiegbu uses fashion to tell the story of West African immigrants.

“In recent times and with the advent of globalisation, the migration of people across neighbouring borders and far continents has become a recurring theme.

“Many people migrate seeking better economic prospects, job opportunities, education and marriage – carrying with them their belongings, cultures and beliefs,” she said.

“Anyi N’aga – We Are Going, through the lens of fashion, explores the themes of migration and heritage as they relate to the above-mentioned points, while aesthetically drawing on the symbolism of the Ghana Must Go bags as they have been linked with travel and migration.”

While Obiegbu uses the actual bags to make fashion pieces, South Africa’s Wanda Lephoto uses their prints in some of his designs.

For example, he used the Ghana Must Go prints in his Spring Summer ‘24 collection titled "PEOPLE". In this collection, he had a range called “Me Fie”, where he used the Ghana Must Go prints.

“’Me Fie’ means ‘My Place of Origin’ in Akan, a language in Ghana. The collection is inspired by the late Virgil Abloh’s 3% design rule, which reasoned that you could create something new by changing a process, a product or perspective by 3% to give it new meanings and a new life while maintaining familiarity,” said Lephoto.