• Sunday, July 14, 2024
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Is the Nigerian economic crisis taking ‘aso-ebi’ away?

Is the Nigerian economic crisis taking ‘aso-ebi’ away?

With head ties that conspicuously sit on the head, matching handbags and shoes, and most especially well-designed “aso-ebi” attires, partygoers relish the beautiful Nigerian culture that is now noticeable across the world.

Of course, the flamboyancy, uniformity and striking colour aso-ebi depicts at occasions are top among the reasons Nigerians are regarded as “loud people”, as the attires speak too and make bold statements on behalf of the wearers.

The ‘aso-ebi’, a kind of uniform won during occasions by many of the attendees and often in felicitation with the celebrants, started with the Yorubas of the South West Nigeria, but has today become commonplace and distinguishes partygoers in occasions in Nigeria and even in some West African countries.

Aso-ebi allows for individual expressions, and in as much as the fabric is the same, partygoers can personalise their outfits through different styles, cuts, and accessories, thereby showcasing their fashion sense and creativity.

Read also: Top 5 West African producers of Ankara and their market dynamics

Call it ‘family uniform’ or ‘social outfit’, aso-ebi has grown from mere uniform to a sustained culture requiring many to keep sewing more as events by family members, friends and colleagues keep increasing from weddings, funerals, birthdays, and other social or ceremonial events.

However, keeping up with the many occasions requiring aso-ebi comes with a cost. According to a popular Surulere tailor, on average, a socially-conscious person attends at least three occasions in a month that requires sewing aso-ebi.

Considering the economic reality of our time, the tailor regrets that such ambition is hard to meet now as the price of everything has gone up, including the fabrics for aso-ebi and the cost of sewing them, hence it has become an additional financial burden on those who feel obligated to purchase fabrics for multiple events.

As well, with materials used for aso-ebi such as lace, Ankara, Aso-Oke, and George, now expensive, many who cannot afford them, shy away from social gatherings, even family events as they feel excluded.

The sad development is worsening as the economic woes persist, with many concerned culture enthusiasts worried that the aso-ebi culture may be dying faster than anticipated.

A survey carried out by BD Sunday revealed that many are shying away from the aso-ebi culture on the back of the harsh economy.

According to Temitope Alabi, an event planner, “Nowadays, a lot of celebrants no longer make ‘aso-ebi’ a part of their occasion and even the few who do, don’t get many attendees who wear aso-ebi again. The culture now costs a fortune only a few can afford”.

She thinks that people are concerned with basic needs and can forgo celebrations or at most, host it on low key with the aso-ebi attire out of it.

“Invitations now instruct people to wear native attires or just something colourful because many cannot afford aso-ebi again. I advise my clients to buy the materials for would-be partygoers at least, if they are after a crowd,” Alabi said.

Esther Monica, who has attended four occasions in the past two months, decried the absence of colourful aso-ebi in most of the events.

“I spotted aso-ebi in only one of the four ceremonies and that was a funeral ceremony. Those that wore the aso-ebi attire were not as many as they used to be in such occasions, when compared to previous years”.

On his part, Tijana Sijuade, another tailor, decried low patronage.

“I used to make a lot of money from sewing aso-ebi in the previous years. It used to be like a government contract, especially when there are more women in the picture. Nowadays, few people come to my shop for aso-ebi and I cannot blame them. It is not as if they are running away from me, it is because the price of everything is now high.”

Read also: Evolution and challenges facing Ankara production, distribution, and export in West Africa

Like the saying, ‘life goes on’, people are now going after more affordable alternatives to make their aso-ebi. “Many go for less expensive materials,” Sijuade said.

Others limit their attendance to only occasions that are a must-attend, while a few who must attend many occasions reduce the frequency of wearing aso-ebi at such events, Alabi observed.

Another way around the situation, according to the event planner, is by reusing the aso-ebi from previous events, altering or updating designs to keep them fresh.

But, no matter how ingenious people are, the reality is that occasions will keep being less colourful as fewer people wear aso-ebi due to the persisting economic hardship.

Differing, Ademola Bakare, an event centre owner, assured that aso-ebi culture will not die, as people are only responding to the economic reality.

Alice Peters, a school teacher, told BusinessDay Sunday that the economy may have discouraged people from patronising aso-ebi. She also noted that people may have become wiser to cut their cloth according to their sizes.

“I remember when in our school, every month, colleagues would bring various aso-ebis for weddings, burials, birthdays and many other occasions. Colleagues were buying, even if to maintain relationship. You find out that people were always living with huge debts every month. But these days, we do not see people come to sell aso-ebi in school the way they used to do; it is done once in a while. It is no longer rampant. Everybody seems to understand the times we are in. People are now telling themselves the home truth, that you do not need to please anybody by buying aso-ebi when you and your family are struggling to put food on your table. As it is said in my place, “you don’t tell the deaf that war has broken,” Peters said.