Asoebi is a very important element of a Nigerian (and some West African cultures) ceremony or celebration, it is hardly ever missed. It represents solidarity and cooperation amongst friends of the intended couple particularly the bride during the wedding. The significance of wearing an asoebi is to identify with relatives, friends and even agemates.

The name. ‘Asoebi’ originated from the Yoruba language – ‘Aso’ means cloth and ‘ebi’ means family. It was typically a uniformed cloth meant for families during occasions and celebrations.

A certain Nigerian Economic historian, Ayodele Olukoju believes Asoebi became well known in 1920 during a period of post World War 1 economic bloom, this was as a result of the hike in prices of produce products such as Oil Palm.

An American folklorist and museum director, William Bascom believes that it originated at an earlier period when members of the Yoruba tribe wore uniform attires to represent fraternal bonds. Women who belonged to organizations in the 1950s dressed up for ceremonies in the same ensemble from head to toe. It was a culture that signified close friendship.

In the mid 1960s to 1970s, lace and George fabrics were imported and incorporated into the Nigerian market and they were popularly used for Asoebi. As the demand for handcrafted traditional attire increased, it led to the emergence of designers and tailors specialized in making native dresses like Agbada.

Asoebi, over the years, has rapidly spread to other West African cultures. Traders of local and imported textile materials have also enjoyed this increase in the demand for Asoebi. Interestingly, the Asoebi is also used to identify with affluence – how expensive the fabric worn by a certain group is and so on.

Photo Credit: BGLH Marketplace

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