Nigerians cosplaying
Photo By John Ezekwem for OkayAfrica

Now in its 10th edition, Lagos Comic Con continues to create a space for cosplayers.

Lagos Comic Con serves as one of the largest conventions making cosplay thrive, thereby building a subculture in Nigeria.

The Lagos Comic Convention (Comic Con) has become the biggest gathering of geeks, weebs, and creatives in Africa. For a day, these individuals get to assemble and interact, geek out, and — most importantly — cosplay some of their fantasies.

Woman dressed in black Sandman costume

"I finished binge-watching The Sandman on Netflix a few weeks back and was drawn to the character," Tonia told OkayAfrica.

Photo By John Ezekwem for OkayAfrica

Over time, cosplay has been used mainly as a means of self-expression. It involves portraying and bringing to life characters from anime, cartoons, comic books, television series, and video games. And Lagos Comic Con serves as one of the largest conventions making cosplay thrive, thereby building a community — and even more – a subculture in Nigeria. This year marked its 10th edition, bringing dozens of cosplayers together.

Additionally, there was a cosplay competition, with a cash reward of N50,000 to the winner. Among these cosplayers is 21-year-old first-timer Tonia who cosplayed as The Sandman, a fictional character from DC Comics. Tonia has always loved dressing up, which sparked her interest in cosplaying. "I finished binge-watching The Sandman on Netflix a few weeks back and was drawn to the character," Tonia told OkayAfrica. "I liked everything about him and how he was portrayed.”

Black man dressing up as Nick Fury

"I don’t believe in cosplaying white people because it just won’t look right."

Photo By John Ezekwem for OkayAfrica

Disun, another first-timer, used cosplaying as a means of self-expression as a Black person. Cosplaying as the beloved character Nick Fury from Marvel’s The Avengers, the 29-year-old looked minimalist in black outerwear and an eye patch. “I will mostly choose Black characters when cosplaying because I am Black," Disun said. "I don’t believe in cosplaying white people because it just won’t look right. I’d most likely cosplay Black characters like Luke Cage.”

man dressed up as super hero Guardian Prime

Guardian Prime is a superhero character from Comic Republic, one of the biggest publishers of African comic books.

Photo By John Ezekwem for OkayAfrica

After cosplaying as Marvel’s Thor in 2019, David decided to put a spin on his costume. “Since this year was the 10th anniversary of Lagos Comic Con, I wanted to do something different, so I chose to come as Guardian Prime,” David said.

Guardian Prime is a superhero character from Comic Republic, one of the biggest publishers of African comic books. David’s appearance as Guardian Prime was profound, because it helped showcase the often overlooked African comic book characters at these conventions.

Other cosplayers were inspired by Japanese media culture. First is 21-year-old Tony, who used to live in Ukraine and often cosplayed at anime-themed events. However, when she moved to Nigeria — before the Covid-19 pandemic hit — she found comfort in frequently cosplaying during this period, gravitating towards only Japanese-inspired characters.

Sekai Saionji costume

"What I have come to love the most about cosplaying is how it allows you to bring to life any character regardless of your race or gender," Tony said.

Photo By John Ezekwem for OkayAfrica

At Comic Con Lagos, she looked stunning in a school-inspired outfit alongside a sword. She’s cosplaying the character of Sekai Saionji from the Japanese anime School Days. “I feel very unique," Tony said. "What I have come to love the most about cosplaying is how it allows you to bring to life any character regardless of your race or gender."

David Ajidahun was cosplaying as Japanese fighter character Ryu from the video game Street Fighter. He used to believe Comic Con only existed outside of the African continent. “Having Comic Con here in Nigeria shows you the progression that creativity can be anywhere in the world," Ajidahun told OkayAfrica. "Cosplaying, as a form of self-expression, allows me to create myself as an artist while also finding that connection with the character I am cosplaying.”

While cosplaying serves as a form of self-realization, the young people at Lagos Comic Con all face one paramount obstacle: coming up with their costumes and props. Some of them spend money purchasing and shipping their costume from overseas, while others opt to go the DIY (Do it Yourself) route.

black Ryu

David Ajidahun was cosplaying as Japanese fighter character Ryu from Street Fighter.

Photo By John Ezekwem for OkayAfrica

For instance, Tonia spent four days bringing her outfit for The Sandman to life. She enjoys the time she spends designing her costume. But, for someone like Deola, her costume of Yor Briar from the Japanese manga Spy X Family cost about $70 and was shipped from overseas.

For her, it’s a huge challenge to find the proper materials and props to create the vision of whichever character she settles to cosplay as. And for Tobi, who cosplayed as Luigi from the Super Mario videogame, she had to seek out a friend who also partook in cosplaying to help create her costume.

female black Luigi super mario bros

Tobi cosplayed as Luigi from the Super Mario videogame.

Photo By John Ezekwem for OkayAfrica

This year witnessed the appearance of some bigwigs in the creative industry, like media mogul Obi Asika and Nigerian filmmakers Biodun Stephen and Niyi Akinmolayan, who all helmed panel discussions across various topics.

In the coming years, Comic Con Lagos is looking forward to extending the number of days for the convention to accommodate more attendees, keeping the event indigenous to Africa, and pushing African creatives and talents to the rest of the world.But the festival isn't easy to put on. Ayodele Elegba, the founder of Lagos Comic Con, says that it's become difficult convincing sponsors to invest into the event.

"They just don’t get it. Without sponsorship funding, Lagos Comic Con becomes difficult to organize," Elegba told OkayAfrica. "One of the reasons we adopted ticketing this year is to be able to relieve some costs of the event. And we are happy that people could pay for their tickets as a way of contributing to the growth of the creative industry in Nigeria.”

women as Harley Quin

Photo By John Ezekwem for OkayAfrica

woman as a ninja

Photo By John Ezekwem for OkayAfrica

black guy as a ninja

Photo By John Ezekwem for OkayAfrica

sandman costume

Photo By John Ezekwem for OkayAfrica

Thor

Photo By John Ezekwem for OkayAfrica







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