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Carried Away: Bags Unpacked by Grace Lai


Backpacks, briefcases, handbags, kete, medicine bags and purses all have a story to tell. From cultural tradition to high fashion, bags can convey social standing, practical needs or be a form of art.


The handbag in particular, has achieved fashion status, but what is the cultural and historical significance behind the bag? Who carries bags and who doesn’t? Why don’t we just use pockets and why don’t men routinely use them?


Carried Away showcases over 150 individual bags from Auckland Museum’s collection. The collection features bags from all over the world, significant because of their cultural roles including army kitbags, a sporran, an albatross foot purse, beat gut bag and a leather handbag from England that carries an 1800s Underground map. Iconic fashion designers Issey Miyake and Gianni Versace also make an appearance.


The book and the exhibition explore the stories associated with their creation and the people who used them. Carried Away serves as a photographic record and explores the powerful symbolism of bags. Fashion and design lovers will certainly want to add this book to their collection.


The collection’s curator, Grace Lai, unpacks issues of colonialism, consumption, the economy, gender politics and whakapapa. Grace is an art historian and leads the development, curation and exhibition of the Applied Arts and Design collection.


Learn more about the exhibition, Carried Away, showing until December, 2019 at the Auckland Museum.


Reviewer: Andrea Molloy

Allen & Unwin, RRP $39.99

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