Anatomy of an 'Owambe' Party

If you ever happen to visit the southern parts of Nigeria and Lagos 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!”

‘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.

Spraying of cash is an essential element of an 'owambe' party
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.

Aso Ebi 'Victims'
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.

Most of the time I spend at any Owmabe, 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. 

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

Sisterhood of the Fashionistas!
These 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.  

The Loaded Ones

Pepper dey rest and fly all over the place!

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.

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

Spot the Sexy marauder in this famous photo

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

Every 'Owambe' is their lucky day!

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.

Images courtesy

8 Screamer(s):

A.Y. Strikes one!

Yesterday 18th of April was my precious little man's birthday. 
He clocked 1 year old.

A.Y. ...aka Okunrin meta...aka Bobo...aka little genius.

Happy Birthday and many happy returns my little genius!
You'll forever be a source of pride to your generation.

3 Screamer(s):

Photographing the Nigerian Idols - What you never knew

I probably haven’t talked much about my job and its nature.

It’s a crazy job that does a lot of behind the scenes magic to wow people on TV, Radio and Tabloids.
One of the most recent assignments I had to oversee had to do with getting the last two contestants of Nigerian Idol, Mercy and Joe, for a photography shoot to announce the winner on the grand finale on Saturday March 31st in the press.

The plan was to snap the two of them and design winner press Ads for them. Once the winner is announced, we release whichever press Ad carried the person.

Getting them for the shoot was not easy. They were just too busy and had engagements and rehearsals. Eventually we had to find a way around it as this was necessary for the press Ad that would showcase the winner the following day after the grand finale.

Our last chance was at the etisalat new corporate campaign launch which was taking place at Eko Hotel at Victoria Island.

Several searches and disappointments later we got the opportunity, thanks to a friend who was a former employee at my workplace. She recognized me and quickly helped me pull strings.

Finally we got the chance to shoot the contestants in the most peculiar of all places – the backstage!

Mercy having her hair made up
before the shoot and her performance

Joe - all set and ready for the session
while Mercy is being attended to.

Imagine moving around with the photography and make-up crew and bumping into the likes of Tiwa Savage, Brian, Uti Nwanchukwu, Eva etc. while working. Celebrities were everywhere like no man’s business all either relaxing and shacking alcohol or preparing to perform. 

ND my colleague with Tiwa Savage

ND with old friend Uti Nwachukwu

Regretably, I wasn’t with my point and shoot camera so I couldn’t capture the backstage scenarios. But ND, one of my colleagues took a few pics with some of the celebs which he allowed me to upload provided I don't show his face. Coincidentally, he and Uti were old school mates.

It wasn’t easy setting up the lights in busy backstage area but we eventually got to do our stuff.

This is Joe as we shot the photo.

This is how he appeared in the press Ad that actually never ran.

This was how we took the approved photo of Mercy

This was how it appeared in the press.

Notice in the original pictures that they were not actually holding microphones, we had to work that in there.There was no Mic around to use for prop.
People eventually saw the press Ad of the winner who turned out to be Mercy. Yet no one knew the circumstances under which the photos for these Ads were shot.

Amazing isn’t it?

6 Screamer(s):