1960s and 2016 – Lagos Owambe Party photograph

1960s Owambe Party
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This won’t be strange to if you visit the southern parts of Nigeria – Lagos and other states from Fridays through the weekends, you are bound to come across this interesting phenomenon popularly known as the ‘Owambe party’.

According to a renown journalist, so common was the ‘Owambe’ among the Yoruba that other Nigerians who seemed to be more restrained soon began to organize owambe parties too: the oil boom had made easy money possible, and for years, Nigerians really lived it up. One contemporary English dictionary, describes the Yoruba  as “the fun-loving people of West Africa!”

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‘Owambes’ (derived from a Yoruba word that means “we have it, so we can flaunt it”) usually happen during significant celebrative ceremonies such as weddings, society birthday bashes, burials, anniversary celebrations and sometimes at naming ceremonies. They are usually colorful and take place most times either in event halls or just on a field with erected canopies all over the place. There’s the presence of a band which is not just there to entertain but to also rub the egos of the bigwigs in attendance by singing their praises with the hope of getting sprayed with cash. And of course, the spraying of cash is a well-known thing to occur at these events.


Then you’ll also notice how dress codes pervade these occasions; these are the notoriously known as the ‘Aso Ebi’ where you are required to be dressed to ‘feel among’. It’s always a must for family members of the celebrants. Everybody is uniformed for the occasion in these outfits that in a lot of cases may have been sold at ridiculously high prices by individuals who seize the opportunity to make some extra cash. Meanwhile some of those who are obligated to buy and can’t readily afford sometimes stupidly go to the length of borrowing money to purchase the material.
asoebiMost of the time I spend at any Owambe, I just sit watching and observing the people and the events going on. And a lot of funny and amusing stuff does happen. In my lifetime experience of being forced to attend these parties, I’ve been able to diagnose the elements of individuals that make up an Owambe party. I usually don’t like attending ‘Owambes’ but unfortunately I’m married to a woman who LOVES them. I don’t know whether it has to do with her being an ‘Ijebu’ woman, ‘cause I heard Ijebu people love to party.

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The Celebrants

As the name implies, these individuals are the sole reason for the whole jig. Sometimes, they are so busy making it happen or worrying about the whole party going just right. Sometimes they are happy mostly because they’ve made a successful impact with the event. In other cases they are not because they are still brooding over the amount of funds the party has siphoned out of their pockets (e.g. the groom who had to spend a fortune on his wedding).

The Party animals

These are the ones that sieze the opportunity of an owambe to get drunk and misbehave. The ‘misbehaving’ in this case would be seen as having fun and being jolly by some people but seriously, this bunch can be annoying. They usually sit together and have bottles of beer lined up for the moment. They are loud and obnoxious (tongue let loose by the alcohol) and some of them may smoke and don’t give a damn if the fumes pisses you off.

 The Scavengers

These individuals are usually the guests that come to the party accompanied by a polythene bag. They have a mission to go home with take-aways. I’m not talking about the take-away that is packed for guests by the organizers, I’m talking about the take-away that is obtained through the several helpings of the food being served for the occasion. These individuals sieze the opportunity to collect food from as many servers as they can and empty them into the bag which they intend to take home. I don’t blame them for doing this as most of them engage in the act due to poverty.

The Fashionistas

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The Loaded OnesThese individuals have one thing on their mind – to show off the designs of their ‘Aso Ebi’. You see them doing deliberate catwalk struts as they go from table to table showing off their stuff. They’ve gone through the painstaking wahala of making sure their dress has been designed to kill. Sometimes the designs are good and sometimes they are disastrous.
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While the fashionistas show off with their outfits, these individuals show off with money. Yes, these are the people who have come to ‘spoil ground’ with raw cash. You see them spraying crisp naira notes or foreign currency. Of course you can’t be in this group if you’re not ‘loaded’. They are usually the stars of any event since the abundance of money is known to notoriously gather you respect anytime, any day. These are the main targets of the performing band who are usually ambitious to get their own share before the event wraps up.

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The Gate Crashers

These are the uninvited guests who show up to celebrate with you, not because they like you or care, but mostly because they are rooting for the food being served. Nobody knows them from Adam, yet they party along as if they are family members. They found out somehow about the party and ‘joined chorus’. While their preoccupation is just with eating as much food as they can get, some of them switch to scavenger mode and hustle for take-aways as well.

The Sexy Marauders
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Anybody who is dressed in revealing outfit falls into this category. Sometimes the Fashionistas fall into it as well. These are individuals who feel their own version of the ‘Aso Ebi’ must reveal lots of cleavage or have their big bosoms popping out scandalously out of the seams. And if it’s not cleavage, it’s the extreme shortness of a gown or skirt revealing gratuitous thighs. Just sitting down alone may even showcase what’s underneath the dress if the legs are not properly crossed. Men are sexually traumatized by these marauding spectacles.

The Beggars

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They are actually who they are – street beggars who seize the opportunity of a party to beg for money, food and anything. It’s like a windfall for them. They usually end up eating remnants of the food left behind by guests.

The thieves

Just as their name implies, their mission is simple – to steal anything they can get their hands on. These individuals may not be easily defined. They are amongst the guests and even the uninvited. They could be anybody from any of the afore mentioned categories. A thief is usually faceless until he or she gets caught so they are not defined. Only their act is.

Photo Credit: www.ccalagos.org, www.nigeriavillagesquare.comwww.osundefender.orgwww.themauritzfamily.blogspot.comwww.theKJblog.com,  www.lindaikeji.blogspot.comwww.vanguardngr.com

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