Owambe, Aso-Ebi and the Politics of dress!

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.
                                             Isi and Ngozi 2011, one of Alakija's collections

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.