Clothing :: « The Aso-ebi » :: Matching fabric & clothes – Yoruba Culture

ASO-EBI

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Aso-ebi is a Yoruba word (Aso means Cloth and Ebi means family). This word is used to refer to the outfits made from matching fabric and pattern worn by family members (though it now applies to anyone who can afford one or would like to wear one) at a wedding ceremony or social event to denote unity, support, and represent sides of the family. Aso-ebi fabrics are typically of Ankara or Lace material (for the outfit) with occasional head ties (gele) . Contrary to popular belief, the aso-ebi phenomena is not strictly a Nigerian thing but applies to many tribes and countries in Africa with the subtle difference in the name. Given this definition, it’s no surprise that people attach so much importance to the associated aso-ebi piece of fabric. Perhaps, it’s because of the preferential treatment people who wear aso-ebi get at a social event.

Source : allaboutnaijaweddings.com

The main purpose of the Aso-ebi is a mean of identifying a group of people ( age mates, bride’s family, groom’s family, friends etc). This has contributed to the explosion of the wedding industry in recent years. Wedding ceremonies themselves have evolved into something that is a far cry from what parents had some 20 years ago. Aso ebi has then become a city phenomenon that has diffused to other West African cultures.

« Ayodele Olukoju, a Nigerian economic historian believes Aso ebi became a novelty in 1920 during a period of post World War I economic boom triggered by the higher prices for produce products such as Oil palm. However, William Bascom traced the origin to an earlier period when members of Yoruba age grades wear uniform dressing to mark fraternal bonds. In the 1950s, members of women organizations or egbes turn out to ceremonies and anniversaries of relatives in the same style of dress, sandals, lappa, smock, necklace, the culture signifies close friendship. The uniform dressing can also be a measure of personal affluence because Aso ebi involves rivalry between various egbes or groups with each group competing to out shine each other in terms of quality, originality and richness of the uniform. »

To read more about this :

  1. Olukoju, A.. (1992). Maritime Trade in Lagos in the Aftermath of the First World War. African Economic History, (20), 119–135.
  2.  Nwafor, O. (2011). The spectacle of aso ebi in Lagos, 1990–2008. Postcolonial Studies, 14(1), 45-62
  3. Little, Kenneth. (1974). African Women in Towns: An Aspect of Africa’s Social Revolution. Cambridge University Press. P. 142

What do some think?

Some are really annoyed with the cost of « aso-ebi ». Brides and family members sometimes purposely increase the price of the fabric to a ridiculous amount hoping to cover the wedding cost. For example, we heard that some people can go as far as tripling the price of a low quality Ankara fabric in order to make a profit that would cover reception expenses.

Others force « aso-ebi » into their friends or relatives’ hands or refuse to mingle with people not wearing the same cloth as them at events.It is also said to be creating differences of treatments among guests…

What do we think?

I personally find it really cool! Well, if the fabric is nice ! 🙂

I see it as a way to bond and have fun with my friends, while wearing matching cool outfits! I mean how dope is it to come to a party with a dress code and to see different styles and different types of crazy all from the same cloth!

As long as people still mingle, I find it great to be able to identify who are the bride’s parents or friends for example! I would not mind buying someone’s aso-ebi if the price is reasonable and as long as the dress code is not associated with any rites or customs that I disagree with!

We ❤ how it is part of many cultures in Africa to just match outfits (and not necessarily for big events, funerals or weddings!!!)

I say : Let the fun begin! 

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Article : IwannAfree

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