|A collection of events photographs taken by Alakija|
Jide Alakija’s quest to document a trend in Nigeria’s culture which is fast becoming a heritage, made him explore the creative curve of his practice in commercial photography. Brought before his audience as an art exhibition that held at CCA Lagos, Alakija a mechanical engineer, showcased his works of choice photographs of people in aso-ebi at different Owambe parties.
Beyond the beauty of an outward show of solidarity among kinfolks when they share in the euphoria of aso-ebi (family outfit), there are harsh realities of the politics embedded in the act if and when a family member does not partake in the show.Samples of aso-ebi; head gears(top), and
traditional tops and wrappers(below)
Though a Nigerian in the Diaspora ( lives in London), Alakija is able to, with his understanding, look at situations when tension becomes high if a family member fails to join in the trail to making a statement with aso-Ebi. He says, “As Africans, we are part of large and close-nit families. When things happen in our families we have to obey the culture, so you can now see how tension may be induced when aso-ebi is introduced into the culture.”
Looking at the uncomfortable part of the highly celebrated aso-ebi culture, Alakija said a family member would usually come under scrutiny should he not buy an aso-ebi for a marriage or funeral ceremony, even if he is passing through financial difficulties. The politics behind it sees it strictly as a refusal to support the family at such occasion.
Considering the other side of the aso-ebi coin, Alakija says the politics here is that people who have taken part in buying an aso-ebi would feel welcome to an event even if they were not officially invited. In this case, the aso-ebi becomes a sort of identity.
Alakija also looks at a future of this aspect of the Nigerian culture, that in time it may evolve into an elaborate trend in terms of flamboyance and may enjoy a comfortable place in the Diaspora for reasons of mixed marriages and mobility. “In a place like the UK where there are about 1 million Nigerians who have settled there, they want to introduce aspects of their culture like the Owambe parties which goes with the aso-ebi, the drums and all that. It simply says something about their identity,” he said.
For Bisi Silva, founder of the CCA, Alakija’s choice of looking at this aspect of a culture that is associated with Nigerians and which is gradually pushing into other West African countries, is highly appreciated because people are given opportunity to look at a wide collection, and would definitely analyse it in their individual understanding.
From the eyes of fleeting colourful moments, Alakija captures culture and makes historic statements about treasures of a people.