Opportunity to represent the UAE at the World Cosplay Summit 2019 Championship Finals in Japan.
- UAE-based cosplayers reveal the story behind their transformation into characters of films, books, comics and video games.
- Alodia Gosiengfiao – cosplay star from the Philippines confirmed to attend MEFCC as Cosplay Judge.
Dubai, UAE, 18th March 2019: Dubai will soon set the stage for the ultimate showdown between fictional heroes and villains as the UAE edition of the World Cosplay Summit swoops into town.
Cosplay (literally costume-play) is the art of portraying a fictional character from a film, comic book, video game, anime (Japanese animation) or manga (Japanese comic book) through detailed costuming and make-up. The craft has a growing following in the UAE and involved the wearer acting as the character they are portraying.
The country's cosplay community will go head-to-head at the World Cosplay Summit - UAE Preliminaries, which will be hosted by the annual Middle East Film & Comic Con (MEFCC) on April 11-13. The winning cosplay pair will represent the UAE at the prestigious World Cosplay Summit 2019 Championship Finals in Japan. The contest will be judged by international experts, including Philippine's own mega-star, Alodia Gosiengfiao. Alodia is an International Cosplayer, Model, TV Presenter, Singer and Actress and is names as one of the Most Influential Women in the Philippines,
But like the mystery behind the identity of numerous caped crusaders, just who are the people that craft such dazzling costumes and so convincingly transform their appearance? We hear from the champions of a growing sub-culture as they push the boundaries of their creativity.
Abdulla Ismail, 28, Emirati.
To cosplayers all over the word, their hobby is much more than simply dressing up. It's about becoming a character they relate to and love. Comic book fan Abdulla is no different.
Abdulla began cosplaying in 2015 and admits to being a nervous debutant. He describes the confidence-building aspect of cosplay as a major draw for newcomers.
“Cosplay builds character and confidence, plus you interact with people who love your costume and want to take pictures with you,” he says. “I've become friends with a lot of people through cosplay - even best friends with some of them.”
One of the benefits of attending conventions is the opportunity to gain advice from seasoned veterans on the art of make-up, hair-styling, costume-making and much more. It's also a chance to be part of a special community that welcomes people regardless of age and nationality.
“It's a wonderful thing that people of different ages and cultures are gathered under the umbrella of cosplaying,” says Abdulla. “The love of portraying characters from comics, anime, video games, movies, and TV shows unite us. Not only within the UAE, but also around the world. In the end, it's all about having fun and being who we are.”
Hamza Al Sarraj, 23, Syrian.
Physiotherapist by day, self-confessed geek by night, Hamza Al Sarraj is one of the UAE's most-dedicated cosplayers. His life-changing moment happened in 2015 when a friend attending MEFCC posted a selfie posing with a cosplayer from Final Fantasy, Hamza's favourite video game series. That night, Hamza picked out a character of his own, Cid Highwind from Final Fantasy VII. He worked for hours on costume, make-up, hair and accessories and made his cosplay debut the very next day.
“My favourite cosplay moment was definitely my first MEFCC in 2015” he says. “It was like my life just twisted around and I entered a whole new dimension. Cosplay is like an escape from reality for me - a real-life fantasy experience.”
Since then, Hamza hasn't missed a single UAE cosplay event. When deciding on a character, he spends hours examining details of appearance and costume, as well as memorising quotes, poses and moves. He even thinks up skits to impress his audience while on stage.
“Cosplay helps you think outside the box,” he says. 'You start seeing things differently and find solutions to nearly everything. It's helped me develop a lot of skills - tailoring, drawing, painting, and designing. One of the best things about cosplay in the UAE is that we have a lovely pop culture community - everyone respects each other and helps each other out.”
Sumi Aya, Iraqi
Going by her cosplay name SumiCosplay, Sumi is one of the true stars of the UAE's cosplay community. She won the chance to travel to Japan in 2017 as UAE cosplay champion and was a judge at Games Con 2017.
“Being a different character, every day is something so beautiful,” she says. “It gives me a chance to be princess, which are my favourite characters and every girl's dream. I've been doing this for seven years and it will never get boring.”
Cosplay has given her the opportunity to make friends all over the world - she even met her fiancé through cosplay. As a professional cosplayer she attends occasions including birthday parties in character and creates costumes for other enthusiasts.
“When I attend birthday parties as a princess and see the little girls' smiles when they see me it just makes my day,” she says. “The cosplay community in the UAE is small but growing. I want others to try it and have a magical experience.”
Researching and creating a costume can take between one week and one month, depending on the level of complexity. “I've gained a lot of skills in makeup, styling wigs, FX effect, sewing, and making weapons and armour,” she says. “It's fun each time you make something new and the joy you have at the event is priceless.”
Saud Al-Hazzani, Saudi
Saud's seven years and counting as a cosplayer reveal the level of creativity that participants can develop - as well as the chance to meet special people.
“I've gained many skills over the years, from basic hand-crafting to wood working, electronics, the basics of hydraulics, and a lot more,” he says. “I've made so many great friendships and even met my other half - my life partner - through this amazing hobby.”
Saud describes the build up to a cosplay event as a whirlwind of activity that can get stressful as deadlines approach but is always rewarding. “I've handmade more than 40 different costumes and each one felt like a unique experience that helped me to learn new skills.”
While cosplay is a profession for Saud, he says the real value of cosplay is the community it has created. “It attracts all kinds of people who love and share the same passions. Even if you travel abroad and simply attend any cosplay event, you will make friends instantly - that's the real beauty.”
Saif Zulfiqar, 26, Pakistani
An artist by trade, Saif was a natural for cosplay. He says the artistry involved in his hobby brings him an even greater sense of fulfilment than his day job.
“A lot of what I do for a living requires drawing and conceptualising ideas, but most of the time they just remain on paper or screen,” he says. “With cosplay it's seeing your work come alive and honestly a new way to experience art for me.”
One of the great attractions of cosplay is the opportunity to meet people who share a similar passion. While time spent making costumes involves many hours working alone, the conventions themselves are a different story.
‘'Once you're dressed up at a convention, things get pretty social,” he says. “It's a great way to meet people and join communities as you'll find that people are a lot easier to talk to when in costume.”
Living in Dubai for the past 20 years, Saif has witnessed firsthand the incredible growth in the cosplay community.
“It's quite amazing how a simple hobby such as cosplay has changed the region and created such a unique and supportive community over the years. I'm certain that things are just going to get bigger and better in the years to come!”
Asad Shams, 26, Pakistani
Asad moved to the UAE from Pakistan four years ago and has been cosplaying ever since. Now a cosplay ambassador, he says nothing beats interacting with fans at events and conventions.
“Cosplay for me is not just donning a costume,” he says. “Sure, I can't fly like Superman or do magic like Doctor Strange. But when people hold up kryptonite or ask if I saw all the outcomes of the Super Bowl, then it's an experience that you cannot describe.”
He credits cosplay for not just meeting people, but for adopting a new way of life altogether. “I've found people sharing the same kind of geek and positive energy as me who have gone to become some of my very close friends,” he says. “Cosplaying also motivated me to work out and adopt a healthier lifestyle to portray characters more accurately.”
Asad describes the build up to a cosplay event as “a rollercoaster of emotions”. “One moment you are anxious if the prop is going to arrive on time or if the superglue has set properly. The other you are jumping with happiness as your prop actually works or when you see that delivery van around the corner.”
And when convention day comes around, there is nothing but support from his fellow cosplayers. “Everyone shares their skills, tricks and tips, which help novice cosplayers reach a higher level,” he says. “This is what cosplay culture brings you - an understanding of cosplay and how it helps promote a sense of friendship, love, acceptance and understanding.”