The Growing Aso-ebi Culture

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Asoebi ladies

Nigerians have popularized the wearing of uniformed attires known in local parlance as aso-ebi for different occasions such as weddings, burials, festivals, carnivals, religious and political events

|  By Chinwe Okafor  |  May 26, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

IT HAS become a common sight at every event in Nigeria. People now dress in popular attires called aso-ebi. People now have aso-ebi for different occasions such as weddings, burials, festive seasons among others. The new attire has gradually become a distinguishing mode of dressing among different tribes and religions.

However, many Nigerians see the wearing of aso-ebi at an event as a way of supporting or showing solidarity with the celebrant. Ijeoma Onu, a civil servant, said she has no problem wearing the material for a once-in-a-lifetime event such as wedding or the funeral of a close family member. “The aso-ebi phenomenon reminds me of some dresses which I only wear once and then it sits at the bottom of my wardrobe forever. I can’t wear the same aso-ebi to two ceremonies,” Onu said. Eniola Adegoke, a fashion designer, also loves aso-ebi because she believes that it promotes friendship and loyalty. “Wearing aso-ebi can prove to the public that you share in the celebrant’s happiness and there is nothing wrong with that,” she said.

There are those who believe that aso-ebi helps people who don’t have the habit of specifically shopping for clothes for themselves. Titilola Bankole, a banker, said since her job demands that she has a wide range of corporate wears, she tries her little best to purchase any aso-ebi that comes her way even if she would not attend the event. She said that it helps her to add more traditional wears to her wardrobe.

The aso-ebi trend is now assuming new dimensions. For instance, aso-ebi is now used as a form of invitation of people to an event. Rosemary Lawson, a student, said she had attended a birthday ceremony where only those in aso-ebi were allowed into the venue. “It is a good way of cutting costs,” she said. Some tailors use the cloth as an avenue for learning new designs that could develop into a fashion fad. Temitope Atinuke, an apprentice tailor, is among people who buy aso-ebi to use as an experiment for new dress styles.

Some asoebi ladies with the bride
Some asoebi ladies with the bride

However, not all Nigerians key into the aso-ebi culture. Nkechi Nnadi, a civil servant, is one of them. She is worried that the aso-ebi fashion fad has assumed a negative connotation. She frowns at people who now use their aso-ebi as a means of exploiting those who purchase them. “It is now seen as a profit making venture. Sometimes, relatively cheap yards of ankara are sold for outrageous prices, all in the name of aso-ebi. It is not fair,” she said. People who do so are accused of exploiting the event to make extra money to enable them host their events.

Realnews findings have revealed that people also enjoy the aso-ebi cultural practice because of their belief that it adds colour and pageantry to occasions. When a crowd of people appear in  uniforms, that dress mode conjures a carnival atmosphere of beauty and a picturesque celebration. The craving for this is what usually motivates Nigerians to believe that a party without aso ebi is far from being complete and colourful.

Some people like aso-ebi because it shows unity and eliminates class culture as nearly everyone wearing it in a particular occasion is identified as the same regardless of his or her social status. But Oluwakemi Ajayi, a trader, has a contrary view. She says that the use of aso-ebi as a symbol of unity has been defeated. According to her, in some occasions, some people wear the regular ankara fabrics while some others are gorgeously dressed in another set of expensive aso-ebi thereby creating a sense of discrimination between the rich, the not-so-rich and the lower class persons.

She lamented that most times, the amount paid for the aso-ebi determines the kind of sourvenirs one gets and even the quantity and quality of food served. “A party should be for celebration and not an avenue to show off,” she said. Obioma Mbachu, a cosmetologist, does not also agree to the fact that wearing or buying aso-ebi is a way of demonstrating support and solidarity. She argued that a hired assassin may purchase and appear in the chosen aso-ebi fabric for a particular celebration in order to gain entrance into the party’s venue and possibly wade off all manners of suspicion as to his mission of eliminating the celebrant before the expiration of the party.

Margaret Madueke, an elderly woman, lamented that the most alarming aspect of the situation is that many people would go a-borrowing to buy aso ebi while refusing to do same to cater to more pressing demands like their children’s tuition fees and health bills. “Many starve their parents to death and spend a fortune on aso ebi and festivities to celebrate their death. It’s a crazy society that we live in.”

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