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In 2014, it would have been unheard of on the streets of South Africa. For some, it came through eyes glued to the television, others from cramped hands over the keyboard. It’s born out of the urge to identify with characters that don’t exist in real life. But hey, who cares about real life?

They call it cosplay. If it takes a cape or a suit of armor to swagger, then so be it. It is an idea born in Japan, but took off in America at comic book conventions. In Malaysia, at a recent conference, the queues stretched for miles as fans waited to get into a convention. In Africa, it’s growing in the south.

The South African gaming characters rarely fail to turn heads. The only problem is getting hold of your own wigs and colored contact lenses in the post. Unsurprisingly, because of this they make their outfits instead – at least their armor gives better protection than postal tracking codes.

Cosplayers form a more surreal part of South Africa’s gaming industry that’s worth around $200 million (R2.4 billion), according to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) “South African entertainment and media outlook: 2014 – 2018”. It’s going to keep growing; by 2018 it is expected to reach around $300 million (R3.7 billion).

This is the African story of the growing trend of Cosplay, from Johannesburg to Cape Town.

The defining factor is celebrating the love of your favorite character – they say imitation is the sincerest and sweetest form of flattery.

The Project

I will proudly admit that I am an Anime and game lover. I go absolutely gaga when it comes to watching the stuff. So when you get the opportunity to feature something in a magazine that you love, you put in that extra effort.

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It all started when I met Kali Kitty Cosplay at rAge 2014, they had dragged two of their friends to the event to make a quadrofactor of Legend of Zeldas. AND so their story began. Cosplay has without a doubt exploded in South Africa. Every rAge I go to there are more and more people dressing as their favorite characters, who knows maybe one day I will don a Naruto outfit and strut around.

Jeanine and Clint were awesome to work with. Trust me when I say their outfits are no joke. Every piece of armor is painstaking made from scratch.  So it made complete sense to do the photo shoot in their home, where it all takes place.

I liked the story so much I started taking photographs of more Cosplayers.  Here is what I have been doing:

  1. Go to a Cosplayers home, and photograph them in their Cosplays.
  2. Do another set of photos at another location that is close to their homes
  3. Interview  them about their cosplay interests and how they got into the hobby.

I aim to document the lives of South African cosplayers. Their hopes and dreams in a growing geek culture/fandom industry and a lighter side of South African culture, that ignores the politics and the violence so often seen in our society.

About Jay Caboz

Photojournalist Jay Caboz is a covert geek and photographer. Most often he can be found wandering the streets of Africa. The Wits graduate and photojournalist from the Market Photo Workshop, wants to get to the heart of the story and follow it, rather than merely report it. In April 2013, he began work as a journalist for Forbes Africa. In 2015 he was awarded the Standard Bank Sikuvile Young Journalist of the Year Award.

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