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Dressed for success!

June 6 - June 12, 2024
Gulf Weekly Dressed for success!
Gulf Weekly Dressed for success!
Gulf Weekly Dressed for success!
Gulf Weekly Dressed for success!
Gulf Weekly Dressed for success!

As Bahrain’s burgeoning cosplay community grows, its rising stars are eager for more local and regional opportunities and support to showcase their art form, writes Rima AlHaddad.

For these magnificent masqueraders, cosplay – a portmanteau of costume and play – is more than just dressing up as a fictional character from a TV show, movie, comic book or cartoon. It’s all about embodying their energy as they come to life.

“When I started, I wasn’t a social person, but I was able to find communities that loved the same shows as me during pop culture conventions, which is also where I discovered cosplaying,” Isah Jani (Instagram: @brokenswordcosplay) told GulfWeekly.

“Cosplayers welcomed me with open arms. Cosplay boosted not just my self-esteem, but also gave me the courage to be able to interact with other people.

“When I cosplay, I enjoy talking to others and hearing their opinions as well as how they perceived my costume of the character that they didn’t believe they would be able to find.

“That’s what really interested me, I found the community I was looking for while cosplaying certain characters and seeing different sub-cultures around our small country.”

The 28-year-old has seen the community grow since he got into the hobby seven years ago, crediting the rising number of pop culture conventions in Bahrain and across the Middle East for the growth in popularity.

He also sees many more avenues opening up for newcomers and experienced players to level up their skills and cited the example of a recent workshop titled Cosplay Essentials organised at a local café by Hasan ‘Osmology’ Mohamed (IG: awesome_ology).

“I hosted and organised the workshop to keep the community fresh and alive, and I think my efforts ignited something within the local community,” Hasan explained.

The workshop served as an introduction for newcomers to cosplay basics like makeup, crafting and wig-making.

Hasan, 25, who recently won the best performance award at this year’s Middle East Film and Comic Con and will be a guest judge at Compass Abu Dhabi on Saturday, hopes to offer workshops with certificates, to provide cosplayers with a ‘solid’ and ‘academic route’ for levelling up their skills.

From costume sewing and crafting to wig styling and makeup, as well as acting and performing, cosplayers put a lot of thought, time and effort into every aspect of their usually solo, and sometimes collaborative act.

Competitions and summits with cash prizes offer rising cosplayers a chance to pursue the art form professionally, or at least reduce the cost of the hobby, which can get pricey quickly.

Professional gamer Marwa Ashoor (IG: @marwaashoor), who is currently on hiatus from cosplaying, reflected on how expensive purchasing costumes and other materials can get. She highlighted that cheaper alternative resources are often available and even suggested shopping locally to save money.

“Communicating your cosplay designs to a local tailor will give you a better idea since they are more experienced and they can help you bring it to life, and usually for a cheaper price than online purchases,” she explained.

“In the cosplay community, personally designed cosplays are more of a challenge and they are appreciated,” Marwa added.

In a community that sometimes gets a bad reputation for sexualising characters from pop culture, the 27-year-old has also become an advocate for modest cosplay, saying that it should be appreciated and deserves its own category.

And while some may deem cosplay to be ‘all play and no work,’ Bahraini-Kuwaiti cosplayer Danah ‘Vitsuna’ Alshatti (IG: vitsuna_), who also studies marketing at Kuwait Technical College, is quick to disagree, saying that these experiences give her ‘real life’ skills like improving her confidence in front of audiences, both at conventions and in the classroom.

“It can be scary at first, but once you’re on stage, there’s no better feeling,” the 20-year-old explained.

She recently won second place in Kuwait’s Comfest in the performance category and first place at Bahrain Comic Con 2022 in crafting.

Vitsuna has set her eye on the international stage, hoping to reach a global audience and maybe one day represent her country at the World Cosplay Summit.

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