The Fabric of Friendship: Asọ ebì and the Moral Economy of Amity in Nigeria


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


Fine & Applied Arts


Asọ ebì is a practice which is thought to have originated among the Yoruba who live in the Western part of Nigeria. In Yoruba, asọ means cloth while ebì means family. Translated literally, asọ ebì means family cloth. Among many other recent interpretations, asọ ebì fabrics connote solidarity, uniformity, oneness and friendship. This project, which will focus on the south eastern part of Nigeria, hopes to investigate whether asọ ebì’s solidarity is bound by any genuine mobilizing sense of collective. I ask whether asọ ebì gift’s claims as the spiralling movement towards the consolidation of collective relationships has been supplanted by a sense of individualism and ephemerality. I enquire whether the spirit of asọ ebì solidarity has been substituted by shallow, bodily attire and finally I investigate the roles of visual cultural practices in the social and cultural valences that constitute asọ ebì as a gesture of group conviviality.