Etymologically, Aso ebi pronounced as “ASHO EYBEE” is derived from the Yoruba words “Aso” which means fabrics and “ebi” which signifies family. Hence, Aso ebi is basically a Nigerian or traditional outfit made from matching fabric normally worn by a group of people to ceremonial services or family functions such as weddings, birthday parties or funerals.
The origin of the aso ebi tradition is unknown but most of our participants over the age of 60 believe its purpose is to identify the immediate family of a deceased during funerals.
A culture expert participating in our study says; “The purpose of aso ebi is to easily identify the children of the deceased during funerals, not relatives or friends and not for other occasions.”
However, younger participants believe that aso ebi is any cloth chosen for any occasion.
Though the name may seem unpopular, the reverse is the case in its uses. The Asoebi is very conventional in the country and its uniqueness has made it a must have in every Nigerian wedding and burial occasion.
The Asoebi is very important in Nigerian occasions and the reason for wearing this dress can be for identification of one’s family relative or to distinguish a certain category of people during an event. It represents a bond of unity or agreement between individuals, united around a common goal and when many people are communally dressed, it suggests that the party host is well known or well networked. Thus, a large crowd of attendees dressed in matching outfits confers honour on the organiser among family and friends.
The use of these matching outfits is rapidly increasing as it is becoming a fashion trend irrespective of tribe or religion. With its much patronage, it does not look like it’s going away or leaving anytime soon.
The Asoebi can be sewn in any style the user would prefer and this adds more uniqueness to its use. On a whole, the Asoebi style of clothing is very significant in Nigeria’s fashion and clothing.
Modification of the Asoebi
The use of Asoebi is a traditional practice which remains an essential part of our culture. This type of fabric clothing has become quite a trend that is predominant in Nigeria’s fashion world today.
In our contemporary times, aso ebi has undergone transformations and Its use has been extended from just family members (ebi) to include people unrelated by blood but connected socially such as co-workers (alabasisepo), friends (ore), alajogbe (co-residents), neighbours (aladugbo) and other well-wishers.
The use of asoebi in events adds beauty in the form of fashion. A female civil servant in our study said; “the main reason we buy and sell asoebi is to make the event colourful, unique and beautiful.”
The unique colours and styles of the asoebi being worn makes the event look highly organised, it adds more value and directly helps to boost the moral and social value of the event.
It is important that the party-goers support the celebrant in cash, gifts and in kind by becoming involved in planning the event. Attending the social event is just as important as agreeing to buy the cloth for it because a poorly attendaed event can be a shameful affair.