Where do our clothes go when we give them away?
Like many people, you may find yourself staring at your cupboards, sometimes overflowing with clothes, and it’s time to sort through them and start making piles.On one side are the winter clothes you need to put away, on the other are the parts that need mending.and then a pile of clothes that you no longer wear because they are too small, faded or simply no longer to your taste.
So, like any sensible person, you put these clothes in a bag and put it in the nearest container, which is designed for that purpose. Now they will benefit people who really need them, right?
Kantamanto Market: capital of second hand fashion
In fact, every week more than 15 million of these “donated” garments in textile containers pass through what is considered one of the largest markets in West Africa, located in a capital city with a population of more than 2 million.
“And 40% of these clothes, brought from the Global North in the name of reuse and recycling, end up in the city’s open dumps or in the ocean within two weeks of arrival.e,” says Liz Ricketts, co-founder of The OR Foundation, whose Dead White Man’s Clothes initiative aims to combat the use of Ghana as a Western textile waste dump.
In Accra, the capital of Ghana, the Kantamanto Market, which brings together more than 30,000 retailers every day except Sunday, the only day of rest, is nicknamed “the capital of second hand”, with second-hand clothes, shoes and accessories from all over the world on the stalls.
Our goal is to show how fashion and its production impact the second hand market.
You have to imagine the crowds in a hurry, the vendors who wave at passers-by to attract their attention, the colourful clothes put forward to catch the eye and then of course the brands. Here, as everywhere else in the world, Nike, adidas or Birkenstock – real models or fakes – are in the public’s favour.
“Obroni we wu”: dead white men’s clothing…
On the spot, people talk about Dead White Man’s Clothes – hence the name of The OR Foundation’s project – or “Dead White Man’s Clothes”, an expression from the Akan community, which means “Obroni we wu”.This is indeed the name given in Ghana to vintage or second-hand clothes, implying that the reason these clothes are found here is that the people who wore them are -probably- dead.