Uniting South Africans with the creative powers of cosplay

 
 
 

Superheroes and fantastical creatures walk among us. They’re quirky. They’re confident. They’re cosplayers. And award-winning photojournalist Jay Caboz is documenting their journey. A combination of the words costume and play, the performance art allows people to embody a fictional character. Though the unique activity originated in Japan, it is attracting an ever-growing global community. “It can be difficult to express who you are,” Caboz says. “And even more so to find people who will do that with you.”

Caboz created the Cos We Play project, an initiative that captures the stories of South African cosplayers and the characters they adopt. Many go to extreme lengths to create a perfect imitation of fiction, and Caboz is compelled to take a deeper look. “Cosplay is about more than the costumes,” he says. “It’s about identity.” In recreating themselves, the players develop a new perspective on life. “I know people who dealt with depression and anxiety, and used cosplay as an outlet,” Caboz says. “To escape reality and create your own is a powerful thing.”

Last year, Johannesburg hosted the first Comic Con in Africa. Theevent celebrates pop culture and offers cosplayers a playground to exhibit their creations. In spaces like this, characters as diverse as the South African people can connect. “The cosplay community is one of the most accepting I’ve encountered,” Caboz says. “People have found a sense of belonging.” Cosplay is an unparalleled outlet for self-expression, and is heralding a new era of creative freedom in our nation.