My Take on the Whole Aso-ebi Custom

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?

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10 Comments

  1. Lady Tee, 5 years ago

    This article explains it all! I believe aso ebi was a tradition that evolved in our culture, whereby the closest friends as well as family members are recognized by the form of the attire. However, the tradition has changed to folks trying to make their money back from the aso ebi syndrome. Seriously, to me it is selfishness! do not dash on to others as you would not want to receive” the gele I will see in yaba market for a reasonable amount, do not try to sell it to me at a triple priced amount! That is not making me share your day with joy, on the contrary, I am buying it because it seems i am obligated to. Brides need to remember the reason for their special day! sharing your special day with people that mean the most to you, not making them break their bank accounts for a simple attire that one will prob never wear again!

       -   Reply
    • Amethyst, 5 years ago

      Gbam! You said it well. I look at my wardrobe and frankly, I’ve never worn any of my aso-ebi attire more than once. That’ll be changing though. I paid good money for some of them and definitely to get it sewn by the tailor. Time to recycle aso-ebi, lol

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  2. Matthew Oluwasegun Ijabiken, 4 years ago

    For me, aso-ebi is us, it’s our culture we’ve got to sustain it. It helps u to have more clothes and update ur wardrobe with the latest fabric in town. Most, if not all of my native wears are aso-ebi. Such that if decide not to buy aso-ebi again, at least i have a colour from another asoebi that i already have which will be exactly your colour of the day.

    Aso-ebi gives u a sense of belonging in the occasion where it is used. I’ve had souvenirs that are more than the extra charge on the original cost of the fabric. For me that is getting more value than what i payed for.

    For occasions where the cost of aso-ebi is outrageous. I’m sure they would have other variations that are affordable. If u can’t afford their lace, you can go for their brocade, or ankara or just the aso-oke for the cap (fila) or headgear (gele). You don’t have to incure debt to get aso-ebi. Buy the affordable one.

       -   Reply
    • Solomon, 2 years ago

      You can never see a white spend lavishly like you have explained! If you need to get an Ankara fabric..Go to the market to get one and support an ideology that has gotten so many folk impoverished. Back-Ward Traditions and Valueless mindsets.

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  3. Liyah, 3 years ago

    I am honestly considering doing away with the whole aso-ebi brouhaha for my big day. I really don’t see the point 🙁

       -   Reply
  4. Rasheed Akinyemi, 3 years ago

    Yes, I reasonably agree with the observations made concerning the mal-practices and abuses of Aso-Ebi (literarily), but I want to suggest that we take a closer look into the word “Aso-Ebi” beyond the literary usage, and subject it to a socio-cultural inquiry within the broader concept of “Social Capital”. I am sure there are positive societal usefulness attached to this practice than its present form of understanding. A good research on this will be a contribution to knowledge on “Social Capital” in Africa. One can even do a comparative study of the “Aso-Ebi” concept and the “Harambee” concept in Kenya. I am doing this aready.

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  7. Maimouna, 1 year ago

    Really interesting article! Thank You! I lived one year in Senegal and they have ‘aso-ebi’ as well. They call it ‘hotesses’, it is mostly wax fabric and like you stated it is a uniform worn at weddings etc.

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