Fifty Dollars also had a row of red, green and blue-striped bags with a small sign tacked above them: “Taiwan’s LV Bag.” The bags looked vaguely familiar and the more time I spent in Taiwan, the more I realized how much these simple woven tote bags symbolize working class Taiwanese life. I always keep my eye out for them: in corner stores, slung onto the handle bars of a bike, stuffed with papers for recycling at garbage pickup. But it wasn’t until I visited The Story of Carrier Bags at Taipei Story House (台北故事館) to report on the exhibit that I realized these utilitarian totes have a name: ka-ji a(茄芷) in Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese).
Plastic and tote bags might not seem worthy of a showcase, but the Taipei Story House’s goal is to create exhibits that hone in on details of daily life in Taiwan that are easily overlooked. Once you do take a closer look, you can see how things like tote bags, dolls and paper currency (two previous Taipei Story House exhibitions) not only trace Taiwan’s economic and cultural development, but also show how rapidly people’s lives changed — and how much they have stayed the same.
Bag fiends, graphic design nerds, and cultural historians–this post is for you.