The Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre (LESC) was every geek’s and nerd’s amusement park last weekend as hundreds gathered for Barbados’ annual pop culture convention – Animekon Expo Episode VIII: Lim8tless.
Walking through the halls of the LESC, there was a mad scurry by some patrons to take pictures with cosplayers dressed up as Pikachu, Deadpool, Batman, Supergirl and other characters. It was truly an exciting experience, as some cosplayers embodied their character’s antics and mannerisms to perfection.
The eighth edition of the two-day convention had numerous attractions catering to every whim or desire of those who gathered. There was a large gaming room for patrons interested in getting in a few minutes of the latest games. Caribbean graphic novels or comics were also on display.
Patrons who were curious to try the delicacies advertised in their favourite Japanese animation or manga [graphic novel] joined the maid café. There were also interactive discussion panels with Professor Mitsuteru Takahashi from the Digital Hollywood University in Tokyo, Japan and veteran comic book artist Paris Cummins.
Exhibitors at the pop culture phenomenon that has taken over Barbados noted an increase in patronage over the convention’s eight year stint. Matthew Clarke, co-owner of Beyond Publishing Caribbean, applauded the high quality of costuming evident at the expo this year.
Referring to Animekon as “Pop Culture Crop Over”, Clarke told Bajan Vibes the works on display highlighted the abundance of hidden talent on the island. “A lot of these costumes are handmade and that in itself, I think, it is almost paying homage to the tradition of costume making in the Caribbean.”
He added: “Costuming is definitely something that is in the heart of Caribbean and Barbadian people, although we may not think of it that way. Making costumes is something we do in a big festival every year so Animekon to me is an extension of that reality. To see the young people and older people come out and use this talent, means that we have a lot of talent that was just lying dormant and there was no outlet.”
Clarke was one of many graphic artists showcasing their work. His publishing company produced Barbados comics spiced with Bajan dialect. Clarke said the Caribbean had a lot to offer in the multimedia market, due to its unique culture and colour.
“We have a treasure trove of cultural references here that could be taken, adapted, turned into stories and modernized. That is what Hollywood does, that is what the Japanese do and I think that is what we need to start doing in the Caribbean because a big resource we have is our culture,” he contended.
Local professional cosplayer, Shannon Williams, also known as Shasam Cosplay, said she was astonished by how cosplay has grown by leaps and bounds. “I am extremely pleased that more people are cosplaying. Knowing how difficult it is for us to find supplies, to see the level of creativity that people use with simple things as cardboard because they didn’t have the materials, to see how it was cleanly done, I was impressed,” Williams said.
She pointed out that some locals were putting their own Barbadian twist to famous characters. “Some Bajans are also creating their own unique characters so they are pushing themselves creative-wise to create characters to suit them. . . Bajans are finding a way to make their own characters,” Williams remarked.
Friends, Ashana Davis and Jasmine Jones, came dressed as Misty and Pikachu from Pokemon. It was the first time the duo cosplayed for Animekon and they were extremely excited. Although they decided on the costume extremely last minute – a week before the event , they successfully pulled it off.
The duo abashedly told Bajan Vibes why they loved the convention. “I just like the atmosphere, everybody is just very, very friendly. At no point in time do you go like ‘hi’ to somebody and they don’t respond with the same kind of enthusiasm . . . It is the only place that I know that exists so freely in such a wide area and it is also really awesome to meet people who like the same things that you do and no matter what you do, it is not considered weird,” said Jones.
“To me, even though they are geeks, nerds and they are kind of outcasts, at Animekon, it is just like one big happy family,” interjected Davis.