A is for Asobi.
Asobi (that's ah-soo-bee) is one of those words that is the same in every language here. It means everyone wears the same fabric, and usually the same style, as everyone else. I understand asobi exists throughout West Africa, though it often has different names. Gambians LOVE asobi. It's very common to get it for events, either with your work colleagues (all the teachers at my school have an asobi, for example) or your friends. It's sort of the opposite of America, 2 or 3 girls will show up to a party in the same dress...on purpose. And think it's awesome. Families also get asobi, at times. My host family (extended...my host father, his brothers, and their children. and their children's children) are getting an asobi for my cousin's naming ceremony. I am very excited, even though I specifically requested they select a fabric that doesn't look terrible on white people...and the did anyways. I will manage. Anyways, here's an example of asobi from the Peace Corps' volunteer swearing in ceremony...we got different styles, but the same idea...
and another from the Peace Corps All-Volunteer Conference
and finally, here's the asobi, american-style my parents brought for my host family when they came to visit. I would estimate my youngest host brother wears his Vandy tee-shirt 4-6 days a week.
What does asobi say about Gambian culture? I think it's a great representation of just how much community means to them. Gambia is very much a community-based society, and asobi is a representation of this. Whenever someone invites me to have an asobi with them, I am flattered because I take it as a sign I'm really a part of the group/community. It's fun. Asobi is usually made for an event, but you get really fun moments when you wear it weeks later and your friend does, too. Asobi is more then just matchy-match fabric, it's an expression of unity. It's one of my favorite things about ceremonies here.
That's it for A....B is on the way coming, soon-soon.