umaskhenkethe likhaya lam
Unomgcana or Umaskhenkethe is the Xhosa word for the plastic mesh bag, which is made in China. Unomgcana means the one with lines and Umaskhenkethe means the traveller. In South Africa the bag is more commonly known as China bag, Zimbabwe bag, Khumbulekhaya bags and Mashangaanbag. These bags are ubiquitous and known as the Ghana must go home bag in Nigeria, Bangladeshi bag in the UK, Turkish bags in Germany, Mexican bags in the US and Guyanese Samsonite in the Caribbean. These bags have become global symbols of migration, not only across borders but within countries too. These bags are objects that carry a home and are means of survival to one who does not have much.
The bag is a personal reminder of my own migration within South Africa. I grew up surrounded by Unomgcana. During the school holiday I would travel from the Easter Cape to Grabouw to visit my mother and my father used to pack my belongings in unomgcana. The bag was an everyday object used by many people travelling from the Eastern Cape to Cape Town.
These photographs reflect on my memory of growing up using the bag. Unomgcana has always been my companion throughout my childhood life and journeys.