Sun | Jan 24, 2021

C.A.G.E - breaking stereotypical notions

Published:Sunday | September 8, 2019 | 12:00 AMAmitabh Sharma
Levene Sheriff (second left) marketing manager at Pizza Hut with the cosplay competition winners Selene Wright (left), Rhea Rampair and Sebastian Thomas.
Sebastian Thomas in his Xenomorph costume.
Rhea Rampair as Iron Inquisitor from League of Legends.
Sebastian Thomas who donned the costume of Xenomorph from Mortal Combat X.
Selene Wright dressed as KDA Akali from League of Legends.
Spiderman vs Iron Inquisitor?
Toni-Ann Rhone (left), venue coordinator for Anime Nerds of Jamaica dressed as Neko Maid, with Trishena Anderson, vice president of Anime Nerds of Jamaica as Amy from Sonic.

This phenomenon is from the world of make-believe, encased in fables, special effects, action, intrigue, and certainly a product of the flight of human imagination that has not known any boundaries or been conformed by any pre-defined and set parameters.

The world of animation, cosplay, ­gaming, and e-sports for a wide section of the population is a product of surreal intergalactic phenomenon. This is where make-believe converges with the real world, with the ardent followers acting as catalysts.

But there are a significant amount of stigma and ­misconceptions attached, for in the ‘real world’, such ‘fantasies’, encased in fallacies, don’t find space in the grand scheme of making a living, or worse still, cannot be anyone’s career choice.

“I think a lot of people here (in Jamaica) may not understand the concept behind cosplay or anime,” says Tianna Powell, founder and president of Anime Nerds of Jamaica. “I have been chided, called on to do ‘something with my life’, or just shunned.”

Powell said that she was once ­questioned in public at an event as to whether cosplay was even a part of any ‘culture’.

It actually is.

Deriving inspiration from the Land of the Rising Sun, die-hard fans and followers of these virtual reality characters are doing their best to replicate these characters and what they stand for.

Powell argues that in the 21st century, the parameters of the Out of Many, One People – the country’s motto, which is inclusive and appreciative of diverse culture – should also embrace this phenomenon.

Diverse culture

“Cosplay, or anime, and just being a ‘nerd’ speaks of a diverse culture,” she said. “My travels to the Unites States exposed me to the Comic Con (multigenre entertainment and comic book ­convention), and there are others like me who embrace being nerds.”

Armed with the desire to bring like-minded people under the roof and also to educate the wider population about cosplay, gaming, and anime, she decided to ­organise an event.

“One day, I got up from my bed and decided that I needed to do something about it. I am a nerd, and I am loving it,” she said.

So C.A.G.E. (cosplay, animation, gaming, and eSports) was incepted as a joint venture of Anime Nerds of Jamaica and eSports Jamaica. The idea was to present a new concept in art and entertainment in Jamaica.

“I believe in every adult there is child,” she said. “This event was an initiative to bring that inner child out of the people.”

It was not just fun and play, she said. They were able to find job opportunities,which, she said is one of her organisation’s key mandates.

“We provide job opportunities for animators, game developers, programmers, content developers, illustrators, for local studios. They go to different community groups – and we pair them,” Powell said.

The one-day C.A.G.E. event, held at the University of Technology auditorium, Powell said, was a success.

“We were way more organized,” she said. “All the planning and sacrifice was worth it, and it showed when this event broke through.”

Powell said that the highlight of the event was the six video game tournaments and the Kiss n cosplay competitions.

“We have very competitive videogamers here in the Jamaica and the cosplays were so turned up! They literally wowed many of our patrons,” she said.

For a youngster who is aspiring to change the conversations about what an ‘ideal world’ entails, Powell says that she is happy to be a triangle in a society that forces people to be in a box.

“I think we are still enslaved, mentally,” Powell said.

She thanked those who supported the event and turned out and the sponsors – Pizza Hut, Esirom, the Vocational Training Development Institute, New Era Fencing, KissCake Bakery, and Mavis Bank Coffee – and said that buoyed by the response, she and her team had already started ­planning next year’s event.

As for the whole phenomenon, none other than Steve Jobs could sum it up.

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes … the ones who see things differently – they’re not fond of rules … You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Amen to that.