It would be unfair to assume everyone reading this article knows what aso-ebi is. Hence, for formality sake, let me define what it is. Aso-ebi (translation: cloth of the family) 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) associated with it. 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; not called aso-ebi across all countries. I am not sure how far this phenomenon dates back to or the cultural importance of it when it was introduced but I’ll like to know if someone knows about this.
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 amongst other reasons.
I personally have no problem with aso-ebi but I have a problem with the price hike associated with it, the forcing of aso-ebi into people’s hands, and segregation of aso-ebi wearers from non-wearers amongst others.
For one, the cost associated with aso-ebi. Some brides and family members purposely increase the price of the aso-ebi fabric to a ridiculous amount to cover the wedding cost. I don’t mind the price hike provided it’s a small negligible amount for the quality being sold. However, if you triple the price of a low quality $15 Ankara fabric in order to make a profit, then I have a problem. This is even before adding on the sewing cost. Either cut down the wedding cost or wait till you get on the dance floor to make your money back but don’t overcharge people for a fabric to make a profit or cover wedding costs. So if I decline buying your aso-ebi, this might be the reason.
Secondly, forcing aso-ebi into people’s hands. This is typically as a result of people’s refusal to purchase due to the hike in price, lack of interest from people amongst others.. If you are an acquaintance of mine, please don’t even bother asking me to buy aso-ebi as I’ll politely decline. I will only purchase aso-ebi from family or friends I consider close enough. I’ve seen and heard about scenarios whereby brides and family members ambush people by either dropping off the fabric at someone’s home, sending it through a mutual friend and offering to come collect the money later without prior acceptance from such a friend or acquaintance. In my opinion, brides, grooms and their families who choose to go with this aso-ebi custom need to notify their guests beforehand of the color and cost of the fabric. It’s up to the guest to make a decision to buy it or not.
Oh and perhaps the part that irritates me the most, segregation of aso-ebi wearers from non-wearers. I personally think it’s of poor taste to do this. I was at a wedding not too long ago and I wasn’t in aso-ebi but it was a clear segregation. Aso-ebi wearers were allocated the entire left side of the hall, were told to get up and dance in with the parent of the bride, served food first, and given numerous favors. On the other side of the hall, we sat and watched in dismay and wondered why on earth we were invited to the wedding. Friends were separated from friends and parents from children all because they wore aso-ebi. I don’t mind giving aso-ebi wearers favors or even specially calling them out for a picture and to dance but when you make a clear segregation amongst guests, then it’s foul.
What’s your take on the whole aso-ebi custom?
Have you had any bad experiences because you did not wear aso-ebi?
Would you be following the aso-ebi custom on your big day?