Photography and the spectacle of ASỌ EBÌ in Lagos, 1960-2010
This research charts the political and visual economies of asọ ebì in urban Lagos from 1960 to 2010. Under political economy I address the politics of asọ ebì dress in Lagos: the contestations surrounding the use of asọ ebì among friends, family members, organizations, among others. Under visual economy I engage the role of photography and other visual cultural practices in the practice of asọ ebì. From the 1960s asọ ebì began to be redefined in line with the cultural and socio-economic changes that came with late global capitalism. Within asọ ebì practice in the city of Lagos meanings of friendship, solidarity, camaraderie and wealth have undergone radical transformation as more people migrate to the city after Nigeria’s independence. From the 1970s through the 1980s, individuals were compelled by the economic conditions to adopt new modes of asọ ebì practice. For example new types of textile materials used for asọ ebì expanded to include cheaper textiles imported from China and elsewhere. Instead of offering aso ebi free, individuals sold it to their friends and within such transactions, politics of exclusion and inclusion ensued. From the 1990s through the 2000s, the rise of digital photography and the emergence of radical printing technology ushered a new mode of fashioning asọ ebì. In the process, photography and fashion magazines became a means of negotiating sartorial elegance and cosmopolitan modernity. In this thesis, therefore, the central argument resides in the contestations surrounding the use and meanings of asọ ebì within these transformations in the city of Lagos.