This abeti aja (aso-oke hat) is part of a groom’s outfit, made in Ibadan, Nigeria and commissioned by the owner Dotun for his London wedding reception in 1995. It was one of three hats made to go with the outfit, he chose to wear this abeti aja, with triangular flaps at either side, named so because the flaps resemble dog ears. Aso-oke, which translates as ‘top cloth’ or ‘high status cloth’ is a formal textile, traditionally woven by men. It is primarily made from cotton or silk, woven in long narrow strips which are sewn together and then tailored into garments. Collected as part of the Fashioning Africa project.
Place: Ibadan, Nigeria, West Africa, Africa
The Museum also collected the two alternative hats made to go with the groom’s outfit. Dotun and Funmi explained why there were three hats made in an oral history interview recorded as part of the project:
Dotun: Well, I’ve only just realised that I had three hats because I have no recollection apart from, ‘Wear this!’ ‘Okay!’ You put it on and – but I know that the different style of hats have different traditional significance so because with Yorubas for example you have the cap that is known as abeti aja which has like two overlapping bits [F: flaps] flaps to cover the ear and they have like the more conventional one. The ones with the flap covering the ear tend to go with the aso-oke; and you have the more conventional just round cap which goes with all occasions whether formal, informal, it’s just what men wear as part of their normal wear; and then you have like the third one which would mainly be a similar round cap, but maybe made of a bit more quality material. So that might explain why there were three, but it’s only just dawned on me! Just now!
Funmi: I know the abeti aja one, the one with the flaps, that is the original, traditional ones that used to come with it and that’s what some sort of – like a king, royal person would wear and that’s what you are supposed to wear if you are like an affluent person going to – I suppose it’s a bit like saying whether you want to wear a top hat and with a tail suit type of thing or if you just want to wear a conventional suit. It’s that sort of thing. You know some people believe that when they’re getting married, they should wear a tail suit or just a conventional suit and some people wear top hats and some people don’t, it’s that sort of inference whether you are posh or not and – but they didn’t know what he would prefer and so they made the three different ones to give him a choice of what he preferred to wear and how he felt and he chose the traditional one because it was unusual for somebody of his age to wear that. It’s more something that was worn probably 30/40 years ago, so he just decided like now most people
wear conventional suits not tail suits and a top hat, that sort of thing.
See more of Dotun and Funmi’s wedding looks: