The Aso Ebe Phenomenon, a trend we must watch with care

Eucharia Oti

Uniforms as we know are means of identification for family, religious, or social groups. At the family level, when there is a celebration or burial, the celebrating or bereaved family are usually recognised by their uniforms. At the religious and social groups, it is used as a solidarity to the celebrant, or to distinguish groups.

Apart from the regular family uniforms, couples also wear uniforms to depict bond or oneness.  I came across a polygamous family in Sango, Ota, in Ogun State, in 1987. It was mandatory that the two wives wear uniform with their husband, whenever they were attending any ceremony, or party with their husband. If also, there was any need for the two wives to go out together, it was sure, they will wear uniform.

At the religious circle, church groups usually wear Ankara uniforms and China white blouse for the women. The simple reason behind the choice of Ankara and China white fabrics, is affordability; because, the least person in the group is put into consideration. On this note, uniform becomes a leveller.

Now the crux of the matter – Aso Ebi.  Let me start from the meaning, and origin of this concept. ‘Aso‘ is a Yoruba word, meaning ‘cloth ‘and ‘Ebi ‘, meaning, ‘family’. This, either by translation, or, transliteration, implies cloth for the family. As I explained earlier, it all started as a family thing, but socially extended to distant families and friends. Aso Ebi makes events, and occasions colourful, no doubts.

However, the reason for this piece is to raise the consciousness of our women on the impending dangers of the Aso ebi phenomenon. Asoebi is a borrowed culture. As much as it is expected that people should learn from others, we should be careful the kind of things we copy, and the extent we should practice them, to avoid; had I known.

The truth is that, Asoebi is becoming a social nuisance.  Couples are having issues, enmity is on the increase among friends, if you say it is not convenient for you to buy from your friends when they have one ceremony or the other, you are marked as an enemy of progress. This is bad.

The Yoruba tribe we copied from do not bury their middle age ones, parading in Asoebi. But regrettably in Igbo land, immediately anyone dies, even the middle aged. The first thing our people do is Asoebi. We celebrate death with recklessness, and you and I are seeing the consequences.

The number of Aso ebis that one woman buys in just one year is outrageous. That is why, I took a part of honour, to jettison any thing about Aso ebi. Let us do this rough calculation together, maybe, it will help us understand where am going. From November to January, 2019, I have received nine wedding invitations, with Asoebi’s attached to them. 2 for – N40, 000 each =N80,000, 3 for N30,000 each = N90,000, 4 for N25,000=N100,000. Total= N270, 000. To make the blouses will cost me N10 ,000 each = N90,000, totalling, N360, 000. This is at my small level. There are women who have more, or less, depending on the person’s social status, or activities for the year.

So, what will make a responsible woman spend such huge amount on mere uniforms for a short period, or even in one year?

My sincere take is that, a woman should be courageous enough to say no, when it is not convenient for her. But contrary to that, many women, out of fear of offence, or belonging to a class, have plunged themselves into debts, suffered  broken marriages etc. There is a case of a woman, whose husband preaches against Aso ebi, and condemns every thing about it. But the woman was busy, struggling to buy all available Asoebi’s because, she has daughters that will wed one day. When it was the turn of one of her daughters to wed, her husband stood his grounds that there will be no Aso ebi. That case nearly sent that woman out of her marriage, if not for the timely intervention of some respected family, and church members.

I heard another story of a woman who  stole her husband’s money to buy Aso ebi. When the man found out, your guess is as good as mine. I don’t have space to go into details.

Another woman fought her husband, and called him unprintable names because, he had no money for Aso ebi. Women borrow money, use their children’s school fees for Asoebi. The list is endless.

I was in a shop last month where I buy Aso oke for my work; my customer was quarrelling with her neigbour. The reason was that she refused to buy a N12, 000 Aso ebi. In her negbour’s word, “you de sell market, you no fit buy common N12, 000 Aso ebi. “ you can imagine that. My customer in trying to explain to me asked, “abeg madam, how can I have 3 children in private school, who they don pursue for school fees, and I go come buy Aso ebi N12,000?”

My advice to my fellow women is, let us try as much as possible and cut our coat, according to the size of our our cloth.  Because, if you are a size 16, and you have 2 yards of fabric, you can only make a small top with it, and not a dress.

In every thing, there is always a way out. Let us learn to call colours to our friends. One, two , or even three different colours, will even make the event more colourful. In this case, one has the options of using the one she has before, or buy a new one of her taste, and financial strength; which will  be proud and happy to wear any other time, instead of an imposed one, she may not want to wear after the event.

Churches and women groups should urgently look into this worrisome trend before it causes more harm to our homes. I have dozens of negative fallouts, of Aso ebi in many families, space will not allow me to write about them all. On the other hand, if Aso ebi must feature in our weddings and ceremonies, we should come down to less expensive materials. A good example is Nzuko Aro Women’s Wing, Lagos branch, which has made beautiful uniforms costing N5000 – N 6000.

I have also seen friends quarrel because, the buyer could not pay for the Aso ebi months after the wedding. This can be avoided if, colors are called for people to buy whatever they want, at their levels.

Now, the conclusion of the matter, weddings, are mere ceremonies . Marriage is the main deal. We have seen weddings that displayed very exotic Asoebis, but they did not last.  I pray it will not be our option.  Our main concern should be the success of our children’s marriages; which God will grant us.

I appeal again to my fellow women, let us learn to celebrate, without indirectly inflicting  cracks into the walls of peoples marriages. God bless the women folk.

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1 comment

  1. Sir Godson Anyiwo 31 January, 2019 at 18:18 Reply

    Ezinye Victoria Oti,
    I wish to commend you for this write up on Aso Ebi phenomenon. It is more gratifying that it’s coming from one of the women folk. Just as you rightly pointed out, the beauty of Aso Ebi is lost the moment its crave leads to any form of discontentment. It’s for this simple effect I wish to point out here that there’s a spirit behind the crave for Aso Ebi, and that spirit is satanic. Yes, satanic, I repeat.

    At this point, may I state that there’s a world of difference between regular and occasional uniform: the regular uniforms are made and could last for up to 10 to 20 years, until such a time the group may decide to change it. Such uniforms as Omú Arò are made and secured by the owners. They are used only on occasions, such as burials, traditional marriages, town hall meetings, even weddings. Whenever the group is to either perform at a function, or honour an invitation, it is announced by the group leader, after consultation with the Executives. As a matter of fact, the occasions during which the uniform is usually specified in the constitution of the group, and there’s a penalty for any member caught in the uniform at an occasion to which the group is not invited. This way, a given uniform is treated with respect. The uniform is usually custom-designed for the group by the weavers or manufacturers. This accords the uniform some level of uniqueness.

    Today, this could be expanded to 2 or 3 uniforms for the group, and the quality ensured to last 10 to 20 years. Think of it: the uniform is unique, and used only at stipulated occasions! This way, husbands with understanding could invest in it/them, knowing that they are off the bondage of Aso Ebi for the next 10 to 20 years.

    The occasional uniform is the now popular Aso Ebi that is a class thing: if you belong, put it on, whether or not you or your husband can afford it. But as you rightly pointed out, COLOUR SPECIFICATION holds the card of solution to the challenges this Aso Ebi phenomenon could cause. The question is: have women realized that there’s a spirit behind the crazy crave for Aso Ebi? Until this spirit is driven away from the hearts of women, the unreasonable crave for it will continue. May God deliver our women from this spirit of Aso Ebi that has the capacity to put asunder, what He (God) has joined together. Amen.

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