My Take on the Asoebi Kulture
As a Nigerian, I grew up attending lots of festivals, ceremonies, and events. Weddings, Church programs, Burials, School functions, etc you name it. It was always fun attending these events (except burials of course) But nothing was as fun as dressing up for these occasions. Especially when we dressed up in matching uniforms or as it’s popularly called today ASOEBI.
WHAT IS ASOEBI?
ASO-EBI (Yoruba) or ASOEBI as many spells can be described as a uniform dress code or style that is worn traditionally in Nigeria and many other African countries/cultures during ceremonies, festivals, and events to mark a sign of togetherness and support towards one another. It can also be worn to indicate/identify a particular group of people in an event and to enable them to stand out.
During an event, let’s say for example a burial – the family of the deceased can decide to wear a particular pattern of clothing, to enable people to identify them. Also in a wedding ceremony, the bride’s family can decide to wear a different design or pattern of clothing from the groom’s family. This way one can tell the two families apart easily.
ASOEBI has been a strong cultural norm in our society since the very beginning. It is mostly associated with traditional events such as traditional marriages, cultural events like the Igba otu-omu which is associated with the Ohafia tribe of Abia state, or the new yam festival in many other tribes all over Nigeria. Although in recent times, it can be said that asoebi does not just limit to traditional or cultural festivals, a lot of people now enjoy the idea of a uniform dress code for their events and occasions.
We might also find that asides from looking good in your outfit, ASOEBI also helps promote coordination and organization during an event.
Some might argue with this belief by stating that contrary to bringing people together, asoebi can create more diversity, seeing as everyone isn’t dressed the same. But I don’t believe that this is the case.
Oluchi’s dress might look different from Nnenna’s own but that doesn’t mean they’re not both beautiful and shouldn’t change the fact that they are both at the same event for the same reason.
THE IMPACT OF ASOEBI ON OUR MODERN-DAY SOCIETY
We have heard some of the reasons behind the idea of asoebi in our nation now we look at the impact this trend has created in our society presently.
A lot of people today want to be a part of an asoebi group and a lot of people want others to be part of theirs as well. There is nothing wrong with someone wanting his/her friends to show up at their ceremonies and support them in any way they can. But recently, this does not appear to be the case anymore.
Let’s use the burial example again; everyone coming for that occasion should be coming to bid farewell to the departed and also mourn and console the families of the bereaved. But that doesn’t appear to be the case, majority of the time, people are worried about how they look, what to put on, if they were given the asoebi materials or not, the pattern and design to showcase for this event, that they lose sight of what really matters at that point.
This is also the case in many weddings these days, the bride/groom wishes for their friends to attend their weddings and show support but they often go about it in the wrong way. Most of them expect their friends/families to go out of their way to purchase the fabric they want to be worn and showcased at their ceremonies. Most of them even turn it into business ventures and try to compel their friends into buying these fabrics from them, and worst of all at extremely ridiculous prices. They tell you the color of shoes to wear, the hairstyles even down to the style of earrings to wear and this in my own view is totally wrong.
A wedding should be a moment of celebration, people should be allowed to celebrate with you the way they want to and the way they can. I don’t have to get a new pair of shoes because you’re getting married. I don’t have to sew a brand new dress because you’re tying your knot. In doing all these, people lose sight of what’s really important, which is being invited to celebrate your joy with you or to mourn your loss with you. Every other pressure is not necessary.
Oftentimes, after these occasions, the majority of these wears are discarded or never used again. So why spend so much in the first place? Or why make someone else spend so much for your event? without knowing the conditions of living for them.
A few people also go out of their way to provide these items for their friends and families to wear to their events.
As a host, you don’t necessarily have to have 10 asoebi friends, etc. You can have just 3 and then endeavor to make provisions for these 3 persons. I believe it’s something you should be able to do on your own, without having to task anyone for anything, unless it’s done voluntarily by them.
In summary, as the saying goes “rejoice with them that rejoice, and mourn with them that mourn” – Death is indeed a painful experience. And a union of two is a blessing. There is nothing wrong with having people wear a particular pattern/fabric for your occasions but don’t do this at their own expense/detriment. Don’t turn it into a business plan/strategy. Let them celebrate with you however they can/choose to do so.
In the end, you’re the one getting married, not them.
Written by Peace Oluchi Nwoke