The Relevance of ‘Aso Oke’

Aso Oke is a popular clothe material. But it is very disheartening that the ‘Aso Oke’ fabric is increasingly losing its relevance among contemporary Nigerians. Though, in the olden days, Aso Oke, is considered as clothing materials for only the royals, yet it provided sustainable income for its weavers.

Living in a society where fashion trend changes frequently, not a few Aso Oke users and devotees have found new love for the Damascus, Shadda and other latest fabric materials of this world. As their fondness for the aforementioned fabrics subsists, they soon forgot that the Aso Oke, beautifully projects our rich culture and noble traditions. It reveals our ethnic origin/root, while also embellishing our heritage.

It needs be stated that from the Aso Oke ‘world’ emerged the culture of “Aso Ebi’’. The Aso Ebi phenomenon is a social uniform attire that is inextricable from the ‘’Owanbe’’ spectacle of the Yoruba culture, which in itself is a social performance (or simply a party or celebratory occasion).

Furthermore, Aso Ebi is a fabric that is selected and weaved into garments which the Yorubas call (Iro and Buba). It is worn by groups of people who are related to one another in various ways, such as family, friends or comrades. The Aso Ebi apparels are worn for social gatherings, especially celebrations popularly known as Owanbe. The type of Aso Oke worn by a person in the Yoruba society not only instantly communicates the status of the person, it also reveals hidden details about his culture, particularly the belief system and level of affluence.

It will be recalled that initially Aso Oke was mostly used in Yoruba funeral activities, chiefly as the uniforms for children of the deceased and other immediate family members. But in modern times, it has evolved into a formal dressing norm for other events such as weddings, naming ceremonies, birthdays, church events, and political gatherings, among a plethora of festivities.

 How is Aso Oke produced? The way of making it has remained the same for centuries. The process is relatively simple and labour-intensive, especially when compared with some contemporary fashion designs.

Amidst all these marvelling facts about Aso Oke, its several cottage industries have almost folded up. What then should be done to salvage the magnificent fortunes of the Aso Oke textile industries in Nigeria? Governors of the South-Western states should make attempts to revamp all the comatose Aso-Oke industries. If not as part of efforts geared towards promoting one of the rich heritage symbols of the Yorubas, then at least for the massive employment opportunities they will provide for the teeming youths and unemployed persons.

 Abdulhamid Sekinat,

Bayero University, Kano

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