The must-go bags

Artist Lalya Gaye tells Ian Wylie what zip-up hold-alls tell of the search for a better life

They are instantly recognisable: zip-up squares of woven plastic, almost weightless in themselves and easily folded away, yet capable of carrying enormous volume.

Here, we might call them hold-alls. But in Ghana, they’re known as the “Ghana must go” bag. Germans refer to them as “Tuekenkoffer” or the Turkish suitcase. Elsewhere you might hear them described as refugee or “immigrant bags”.

Must-go bags

The nicknames for these bags of coloured plaids and stripes are telling. They belong to the uprooted, people on the move voluntarily or otherwise, in search of a better life elsewhere. You’re likely to spot these bags piled up in arrivals at Newcastle Airport or on luggage trolleys at Central Station or coming off a coach at Middlesbrough bus depot – but they are this century’s equivalent of the battered leather suitcases piled high at the Ellis Island museum in New York.


Read the full version in The Northern Correspondent #7