Beyond the Costume | Ama Waithira

She emphasizes the importance of play


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The Fandom Arena 2023 (Cosplay) [EP.64]

[00:00:00] Ama Waithira: I think cosplay is therapeutic. Anything you're feeling, you can find a character for it, that's usually the interesting thing.

[00:00:07] [Ident]: [Afrika Design Ident]

[00:00:09] Naitiemu: Thank you for joining us, everybody. This is an amazing day to have conversations around cosplay in Kenya and just to catch base on what everyone has been up to. This is Nairobi Design Twitter Spaces.

[00:00:23] Nairobi Design is a design agency and we have a festival once a year where we showcase and celebrate the community's creativity and ways in which people solve problems. And actually a big part of what we focus on with the festival is cosplay. In the previous two years we've had cosplayers come into the festival and showcase their work.

[00:00:49] We had some work from Jess. Check them out, jesnomaybe on Instagram and their work is amazing. We showcase some of the costumes and at the same time had conversations around cosplay. In 2022, we had cosplayers come through and have some very cool photo shoots, which were a great add to the festival, a great add to play, which is something we believe in.

[00:01:14] Our core pillars include play, grow and make. And play is a very important part of who we are as humans today, especially when you're an adult, because unfortunately, play is left usually for children. And once you leave being a kid, you're no longer expected to play. Yet, play makes us enjoy life, makes us, you know, analyze situations better, makes us actually grow as humans, and it's something that we cannot take lightly.

[00:01:41] We often watch our cats play and it's really funny when cats start playing because they take it so seriously. Playtime is playtime, you know, there's no jokes about it. And I find that inspiring to myself even. I'm like, when it's time to play, it's time to play. And so today we are talking about cosplay and have our amazing guests, Ama Waithira and her team come through to share more about what they've been doing and changing and magnifying cosplay in Kenya.

[00:02:10] And what really it entails to be a cosplayer or even to just understand how to work around cosplay and the kind of benefits and impact cosplay has on us as humans and on Africa, creatives, and beyond.

[00:02:26] Let's just talk about play. What do you all think when we talk about play?

[00:02:30] Ama Waithira: I think because of my background, play is associated with a lot of art and colors and expressions. So, I feel like if there's paint involved, if there's a way to express, you know, while still having fun at the same time, maybe like, if it's more exciting, you can actually think of like, you know, paintball shooting, which is combining like so many of my favorite things.

[00:02:56] But yeah, adults are kind of limited when it comes to play, I'd say. But that's how I perceive it as an artist.

[00:03:03] Naitiemu: Wonderful. Well, you've talked about paintballing. It reminded me of... we attended one of the events by Sounds of Freedom, and they were actually trying to kind of have a play thing with paintballs, where some people were the Mau Mau fighters and the others were the collaborators, and you were shooting paintballs against each other. And in a way it was just like a fun way of trying to talk about real events that happened in the past. And actually, while I was there playing with the paintballs. I actually felt that you can imagine if it was real, how intense that is.

[00:03:40] Like people had to hide behind rocks or whatever, and this is a matter of life and death. So a reenactment in a fun way, which, you know, it's not, it's not set to make the real event any lighter, but as the person who is experiencing it, you kind of have a rough idea of what it might have been, you know, for the fighters out in the forest and, you know, trying to fight for freedom.

[00:04:06] So in a way play to me, you know, now even as an adult really helps to also visualize what it might have been, you know, all these characters that you tend to build yourself to become when you're playing gives you like an avenue of realizing what they may be, you know, just have a bit more empathy in what they went through and appreciation for the kind of work they did.

[00:04:28] Adrian: As a kid when you're playing some of that play informed my profession because play in the form of drawing or model making informed the... let's call it serious stuff, right?

[00:04:39] There's nothing wrong with taking play seriously, because even when you're playing a video game or ping pong or whatever it is, a board game, it can still be taken seriously. It's just another way for our minds to make connections. And that's really where it allows us to kind of think differently, to disconnect from the thing in front of us and maybe approach it from a different perspective.

[00:05:04] Naitiemu: Yeah, absolutely. I think play really helps sharpens the mind. When you're playing video games, you're solving problems, you're being given a challenge, and then you're going past that challenge. So in a way, I think it really makes one sharper and more determined, more hardcore, more geared to solving problems, perhaps also just enhances your daily life because a lot of the things we go through involves seeing a problem and finding a solution for it.

[00:05:33] So moving on, today we're joined by Ama Waithira, who's a animator, cosplayer, among other different forms of creations that she does. And today we'll focus more on her work as a cosplayer and just delve into what they're doing in Kenya as they continue growing the cosplay community in Kenya.

[00:05:55] Tell us Ama, what is cosplay? What does it entail?

[00:05:58] Ama Waithira: So, I found it very curious when we were growing up that we didn't celebrate Halloween, yet, you know, the fandom was very keen to watch horror movies and such. So it combined a lot of things when we grow up and we're trying to do film and we want to promote our arts. And if we dress up, people get more curious and it's just something that it's kind of innate.

[00:06:24] Like we've always been people who are extra, even as Africans. So it's just in line. And nowadays we can even dress up as our own characters, we can come up with our own ideas, and we can fantasize about what we could have been, what we used to be. You can design yourself as a pharaoh or a goddess from, you know, 200 BC.

[00:06:45] So, If we use it as a fun thing, like we play with it, but at the same time we promote our movies and our art, I think it's like a big win. So, it's entertaining for the kids, it's entertaining for adults, and yeah, it's just a way for at least one time of the year people can let loose and be whoever they feel like they want to be on the inside, you know, if it's creepy or if it's whimsical, if it's fun, at least a few times that kind of release, I think, is great for adults in this era, in this trying time, in these economic climates.

[00:07:26] Naitiemu: So it's basically you express yourself, you take a character that you perhaps maybe can relate with or want to explore more and you dress up like them and just have fun with other people.

[00:07:37] Adrian: Yeah. I wanted to ask actually, are there like components of cosplay?

[00:07:41] Right? It's not just dressing up as a character. There's more to it. Perhaps you could tell us about it.

[00:07:46] Ama Waithira: So interestingly all cultures will have a time when either they celebrate harvest or you know, sometimes they are just excited for life or sometimes it's Carnival sometimes it's our festivals during the rainy days.

[00:08:04] So I think it goes from cultural to what we perceive in entertainment because all the while it's been storytellers and the creators who have been pushing these agendas. So the concept of now putting it in modern media, it's not that new, but it's an innovation, so to speak. There's levels of it that used to be spiritual.

[00:08:28] Some of it now has just become for promotion. So specifically, cosplay can be whatever you want. If you want it to signify something personal to your people, or you want it to signify maybe a futuristic character that has not been seen before, it's absolutely open, it's up to you. But there's elements of film, there's elements of art, and costume design, and so much creation.

[00:08:54] Naitiemu: I'm curious about the elements of culture and let's say spirituality in cosplay especially with the African context.

[00:09:03] Would you tell us more about that? What's the history, perhaps in Africa or even any other places that you may know of?

[00:09:10] Ama Waithira: So I would speak specifically from Africa because that's what we studied. That's what we've seen. And there's all sorts of depictions in other places, like, you know, now I've mentioned carnival, but there's also festivals in Spain where they just paint their faces and worship and dedicate their time to either other deities. Something significant to them.

[00:09:35] So I think it's just about research and being respectful. So that when the art comes out, it's not plagiarism, or appropriation. So we just have to be respectful about how we create and who we are speaking about.

[00:09:50] Naitiemu: Oh, wow, wonderful. Yeah, for sure. So going back to your journey as a cosplayer. What inspired you to be a cosplayer?

[00:09:59] Ama Waithira: So we had a lot of teen fiction being thrown at us as kids, like we had a lot of Halloween themed movies, but not exactly horror, but like, you know, wolves and vampires and all the twilight, that was what put me into the scene the most I think because we were reading it and we watch it in the cinema and then you go and fantasize and create your own stories and then you're like, you know what I can be a vampire too so the earliest ideas I think were trying out to be the Easter bunny by just painting our faces.

[00:10:34] And of course we had those eras of face painting in Uhuru Park as kids and such. So if I were to count those, maybe those were the first times we were actually like looking like the fairies or the cat or the panther that you've always wanted to be. So there's different levels to it, but the first actual event was Naiccon and there had been so many other people before who regrouped and now came up to give us that event in that time, which was around 20, maybe 2014, 2013. It was just growing and it was very entertaining for people who have never been in a room with other people who are doing the same thing as adults.

[00:11:16] And yeah, I think that really shaped it for most of us because we got a chance to be seen, so to speak..

[00:11:24] Adrian: I was just going to extend the question in terms of source material and inspiration like comic books, anime, manga, you know, or even local inspiration.

[00:11:35] How has that evolved for you since wanting to be a vampire through the different events and things you've done?

[00:11:42] Ama Waithira: So, growing up, we had animorphs. I don't know if anyone was alive in that time to read them, because they kind of broke my mind at a very young age because we had transformations that we had never had before and all of our parents just called it witchcraft and those were the things we really looked for in the libraries.

[00:12:02] So, growing up we could access, you know, some more R. L. Stine, some more... the comics for us were always out of date, because if you can afford the new ones, and there was no internet, like, you had to have known somebody, like in the comic stores or something. So, eventually when we catch up, we would see maybe, TinTin and such. But now when we get to access Marvel Comics and DC Comics. It's very recent for me personally, because it was about affordability. So we would watch the shows much more. And yeah, I think we were shaped by the most basic ideas of law. We had Harry Potter. If you could read both the books and the movies, that was always a plus because you could visualize a whole lot more.

[00:12:52] Disney. Also, literally all the little books that we read all the Grimm's fairy tales. Those still influence us to this day because all these stories are just being recycled. They say there's nothing new under the sun. So if they want to create another Dracula, we've already seen so many, but they can make another one.

[00:13:10] It's fine. So I think the references span a lot of time and space and it's not limited at all to books or comics or even TV shows.

[00:13:20] Naitiemu: Give us, for example, a character whom you can remember that spoke very much to you, who you choose and why you choose that character. What makes you choose your characters?

[00:13:31] Ama Waithira: I think at first... like now the Barbie revolution is back and it's bigger and better than ever. But at first we only had that and maybe the Disney fairy tale. So, eventually I was very inclined to these darker characters like Maleficent and that was interesting because we didn't expect to be the dark type, you know, we thought would be the fairy tale Tinkerbell forever, but Tinkerbell was also kind of dark in her ways. So yeah, I'd say the witchier ones would always appeal in a way, because the way the writers make it is like, you feel for them like Wanda in WandaVision, you're like, she's making sense.

[00:14:17] She's doing really bad things, but she's making sense. Even Catwoman bending the laws just a few times, you know. She still plays for the right teams, but her and Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy will always be like anti heroes, but not fully villains. So they always have a reason. I find it interesting to find out why they are the way they are.

[00:14:38] So it's always those ones who have multiple layers of backstories, and the more I find out, the more interesting it is because these stories were written in the 40s, and we are still recycling them to this day, which is very amazing.

[00:14:51] Naitiemu: That sounds really interesting. I wonder if these characters make you discover some elements of yourself more or I don't know, explore bits of you in a way that, you know, kind of gives you an outlet to analyze yourself more. Is it something you ask yourself if it's related to you in a way?

[00:15:10] Ama Waithira: Mm hmm. A lot of times you watch the movie and you do a lot of self reflection because you're like, why am I feeling for this character so much. Instead of going for Thor, I would go for Loki. So I'm wondering why? What is the specific reason? But of course, I think cosplay is therapeutic. Anything you're feeling, you can find a character for it, that's usually the interesting thing.

[00:15:36] If you feel like you're very isolated, maybe you're in a space or in a time or in an area that is not familiar to you, you can find a show and this character will speak to you and make it feel like, oh, I'm not the only one actually going through this. And it's not only with sci fi, it's sometimes in drama series, it can be done as long as you can make the costume, you can be that person.

[00:15:59] So it doesn't have to be always the villains versus the heroes. Sometimes it's a girl in, you know, in a sitcom who just very much speaks to your persona or so. Yeah, it's kind of therapeutic just to go through it and see yourself or your personality in these characters.

[00:16:17] Naitiemu: Yeah, indeed.

[00:16:18] Adrian: I just checked out on Wikipedia that apparently the first cosplay was in 1910, 1912, something like that. And the first world science fiction convention was in 1939.

[00:16:31] So there's been a lot of fans. It'll be interesting to maybe uncover some of those first cosplays and recreate them.

[00:16:39] Naitiemu: That would be amazing.

[00:16:40] For me growing up as a child, I didn't have much exposure to television, you know, I mean, I used to watch pop up girls, but that's it. Not so many characters in terms of exposure to like the comic world, et cetera.

[00:16:55] So, when we're going to go for Naiccon, as much as I love, emboding different people in me, I'm actually a performance artist, but I was a bit conflicted because at that time I associated cosplay only with like people who are really invested in anime or gaming, which I was neither.

[00:17:14] And so I was like, okay, I can't just take a character that I don't know because it doesn't feel authentic to myself. But what I'm always interested in is a lot of African culture. And with African culture, there's so much performance. There's so much performance whenever we have masquerades, whenever we have dances, whenever we're calling out to the ancestors, people wear masks, people dress up, people dance, and you embody somebody else. And I've done my research on traditional African masks. It's actually a project I've been working on with woodcut prints and 3D printed stencils.

[00:17:48] And one time also, we happen to see a video of Zaoli dancers from Ivory Coast a while back and we're like, Whoa, these dancers because literally they're levitating. They're levitating with their feet. And all you can see is dust on the ground.

[00:18:03] And they're wearing these huge interesting masks and they are like, they look like superhuman. And I mean, at that point, they are actually superhuman because they're manifesting that power. And when we were thinking of going for Naiccon, I remembered that dance and how intrigued I was with the Zaoli dancers.

[00:18:21] And so I thought, because I can relate with this and it's part of what I'm interested in. I chose to embody a Zaoli dancer from Ivory Coast. So I made a mask using cardboard, painted it, cut it out and wore that. And I made a sisal skirt. And because when they're dancing, they usually have the sisal or other fabrics that they wear.

[00:18:44] And so I wanted to embody that. And that is why I chose being as the only dancer. I did find some research on how they choose that mask. So a pregnant woman passing this man were debating about something. And then they saw a pregnant woman passing and they wanted to know, they say that whoever will know the gender of the child will be the winner or basically win this. And they literally like cut her open and this child survived.

[00:19:13] So this child came back, yeah, that is a story, I don't like that story, and this child survived and this child came back and is the one being celebrated as now the one who they pray to when they want good things to come to them, when they want rain, for instance. So that is what I read from the research that I did.

[00:19:32] So this is a child that they celebrate. And usually it's worn by a male dancer, except this child is a female. So also there's that embodiment of when you take up this spirit, you become this child that's kind of saved these people despite the horrible background that it started off with. So, that is what I embodied when I found out more about the history.

[00:19:55] Ama Waithira: I find that very relatable in a way because all these stories can be so dark. Like, when you research a little deeper for context, sometimes I'm like, wow, maybe I shouldn't have, maybe I shouldn't have gone to find out but the masks and a lot of things change for our people because there's a lot of erasure, a lot of things that come back that we don't know, because there's someone who is called Saitabao, who did a project called If Objects Could Speak.

[00:20:27] And he was trying to take things from the archives in the museum and the basements and trying to take them out into the public to see if anyone knows what they are because they've been kept there since pre colonization. No one knows who they were. If they're someone's ashes, if they're, you know, symbolic for death or not, you know, they just take them and keep them.

[00:20:49] So when they are discovered and they are taken out and there's only one old man in the whole village who will tell you, Oh, that should never be touched. That should be kept in a basement for sure let it never be seen in the day but then some of them you discover were supposed to be good charms. These masks would embody the signs of maybe fertility or prosperity or success and the person who's wearing it is the rain maker or the rain bringer.

[00:21:19] They do the dance I think it's very interesting like to find the back stories despite them sometimes being so scary so very dark, but that's our culture people were extra I think and they still promote these ideas I see a lot of like black history twitter is doing as much as they can because the threads expound a lot more for me than I had previously understood about these images and these signs.

[00:21:43] And yeah, I think there's a lot for us to discover still because there's missing history, so to speak.

[00:21:50] Naitiemu: Absolutely. And it's something I feel. Yeah, just going back to and trying to understand even what it means to the community. And these are things, you know, you stumble upon on the Internet and wonder if there's more to it. I'd love to visit these communities and talk about it and really see what is the story? What do they know about these? And also where are the limitations?

[00:22:13] Adrian: First, just to give you an opportunity as well to talk about the local Kenyan cosplay scene. I was really excited to see what you're doing with fandom arena. And that kind of to segue from maybe some of the people that might be inspiring you, people within the community either through stories and through characters or actually through the work they're doing within the cosplay scene.

[00:22:39] Yeah, just wanted to find out more about what's happening there. Maybe you can give us an intro into what you're up to.

[00:22:45] Ama Waithira: So, the moment July is over, it's like spooky season, that's a declaration. So as soon as the cold starts hitting like this, everyone is excited for cosplay. And even the movies, there's a way they hype it more during this time of the year.

[00:23:03] So, I think we'll start out with Naiccon being the biggest platform that has been able to give us at least space. They're hosting something for the kids and now we want to take it on after that and do some workshops to see if people are interested in learning how to do cosplay, because it's tied in with set design, it's tied in with costume making.

[00:23:24] So it's a skill, I think, that embodies a lot of things. And if people could see the value of it. Then locally, all the people that are the best cosplayers started out either in fashion or had an interest for it. And there's all the people who stitch by hand or sometimes even they can start the idea and then take it to the tailor.

[00:23:48] It's very nice to have a, a nice local tailor. So, out in the scene, there's been a lot of Afrofuturism, you know, Kizazimoto with kina Ng'endo Mukii has been one of the greatest successes for our people in animation and in the art of designing things from concepts to creating the puppets to making them visible.

[00:24:11] So those are now characters that other kids growing up after us can cosplay, which is very revolutionary. So like Nadia and Ngendo, they've created something for like the little girls, and it's very beautiful, like, all the people on Kizazimoto have been exponentially good and very, very inspiring.

[00:24:33] There was Salim Busuru also working behind the scenes, and yeah, there was so much collaboration and so much effort, and I find nobody knows how long it took for them to actually get to Disney. And how many times they had to be told no and how many times they had to rethink it, but they still keep on.

[00:24:51] Because other people will tell them, Oh, this work is not very serious, but the people that actually accept them, interestingly, will not usually come from home, unfortunately. But so far they've been working because there's challenges also when you're working with big corporations, they will kind of sometimes change your stories.

[00:25:11] They'll kind of limit your ideas. So it's very hard to stay strong. And these people have stayed adamant. They said we will keep the stories as they were because traditionally this is what I was told and we cannot compromise on quality. So it's taken them a while and it's very impressive to watch.

[00:25:29] So I think those are the ones that I can mention just in passing. There's so many other people working and we are constantly inspired. So we want to create with them. And there's conversations around what we can do for our future generations, especially the kids coming out of campus, as I am also a lecturer, but they need to be inspired to see that we can all do it.

[00:25:53] They don't see all the praise that is supposed to be given, so we have to keep reminding them, it's okay, just keep working. So a lot can be done for the next generation of artists.

[00:26:05] Naitiemu: Yeah, absolutely. When you talked about the kind of work you create, what are the things you have in your bag whenever you're creating costumes with your team also. Just the materials, the tools, and the processes.

[00:26:18] Ama Waithira: So cosplayers are very crafty and they'll almost have everything in one bag. Despite the bag looking like an ordinary backpack, it carries half their art supplies, half their art kits. So it ranges. I don't personally carry a glue gun, but I know people who do. Like, you gotta be able to fix things on the go. Even if you're not in cosplay, it could be your shoe, it could be... Yeah, so they walk around with a mini glue gun.

[00:26:45] But for myself, it's always like a good makeup kit and maybe a pair of scissors. Which can come in handy for so many things as well. I think good art supplies would be fun pens and maybe one random accessory, like a headpiece, like some pussycat ears or something, or a face mask, something small. If it's something impromptu, if we don't know where we are going. But if we know then the bag will be at least three possible costumes and supplies and glue and such.

[00:27:17] Naitiemu: Dope. Dope. I remember, while working with Jess, who actually designed really dope costumes when we worked on Enkangang project, which was basically going to the Maasai village to collect stories and then be inspired to have a futuristic and they used like foam to create some really cool, I can't even describe it.

[00:27:38] Like the dress I was wearing had like horns made from foam and collected materials and just like random things that you wouldn't even think that could just be transformed into a costume. That was amazing. So kudos on the work you do also coming up with things, creativity.

[00:27:57] Ama Waithira: I can see it even some of it is still on your profile.

[00:28:00] Yeah, the...

[00:28:01] Naitiemu: Yes, absolutely.

[00:28:02] Ama Waithira: Yeah. I think that was, that was so cool to merge African ideas, like the horns of... was it a bull? Was it a specific bull? Cause it's just directly from reference. It's exactly what it looks like, but now it's shiny and pretty.

[00:28:23] Naitiemu: Really creative. And those glasses from, I think just like normal plastic cover that you get on the files. So cut it out and then have that... glasses. That was cool.

[00:28:34] And what are some activities under fandom that you guys do?

[00:28:38] Ama Waithira: So mostly we've been prepping with training. We want to have at least a team of people who can control the machines, the cameras, and actually create animation. So, when they come up with their own characters, now we can present them and have people dress up as those characters, as well as teaching people how to make the costumes.

[00:29:02] So we've been pushing a lot of film festivals just trying to get people's work out there so that the collaborations are stronger by the actual Halloween season. The main event should be film screenings from our people. We'll call out for people who have anything in theme that they want to show.

[00:29:21] And yeah, we'll curate something interesting that can span more than at least a week, but in intervals, it doesn't have to be continuous because yeah, we want to see how the schedule will pan out. But so far we want to include the filmmakers, the gamers. And yeah, the conversations have been progressive, so to speak.

[00:29:46] Naitiemu: That's cool. I love that you have a wide range of creatives involved. What does it take for one to maybe join your the fandom community? If anyone wants to join.

[00:29:56] Ama Waithira: It's open to every kind of field. The more diverse, the better. So it's just about reaching as many people as we can, especially from areas of life that are not specifically artists, because we are at the same time trying to promote our movies and our animation. And we also want to get people who are not only filmmakers. We want to reach out to everybody who can actually be interested.

[00:30:22] Whether it's people in corporate people in I T. Everyone can come together. We came like with a few people and ideas for a game would be... it's more vast when people are not of the same career line career path. So anyone who needs to reach out can find me here or on instagram or yeah, just send a dm.

[00:30:44] Adrian: Last week I was shooting for a couple of metal bands and it'll be interesting to see that crossover of cosplay and and rock music.

[00:30:57] Ama Waithira: Yeah, I need to make a mask for him because he's a big fan of masks. So I was in talks with him literally two days ago. I met him in the streets of Rongai and I had no idea he's even in this area. So yeah, they are very interesting. There's a lot that can be done with them.

[00:31:14] Naitiemu: It looks like cosplay can span such a wide range of areas, from music to film to gaming. It feels like you can be whatever you want to be when you're doing cosplay, which is quite an amazing element. Would you say that in a way the cosplay community has created safe spaces for people and what kind of spaces?

[00:31:38] Ama Waithira: Absolutely. The cosplayers always tend to be secluded in a way because there's so much fear. People will always go and tell us things like, why do you want to be white? Why are you wearing a wig? All sorts of weird things. Or I'm like, it's not, I have locks, you know, I can still just dye them pink, but people will still get mad and say, I'm trying to be white still.

[00:32:02] Or they'll compare us to K pop and say, Oh, y'all are just. You know, you're losing the plot. Where's the culture? So we are trying We're like, okay. So if we make african characters, our parents say demonic so we can't please anyone really. So, for the places that do accept us. We are always so very very happy. And it always takes you know, sometimes the outfits can be a little on the edge, you know If it's the girls wearing like tie high boots and very small shorts. So sometimes it can't be kept PG, you know, sometimes even management just goes like yo, yo, we'll have to tone it down a little bit.

[00:32:42] But a lot of spaces have really allowed us to be whatever we want and that for me is very inspiring. It's only a few times that you know, people have been stopped and told to change and such but it hasn't happened to me personally. We've been scaring the masses in the CBD. People are just curious, you know, they stop us to ask us questions, but no one really polices us, so to speak.

[00:33:06] Like, we can walk into a chicken inn, which we did, and we were all looking very, very scary, and we kind of forgot we were in costume. Then we start to notice, oh, the kids are kind of, you know, backing away from us, and we're like, all right, we left the studio, we should go back to the studio as soon as possible.

[00:33:25] So it changes, though we've been allowed so much by cinemas, Nairobi Design Week, Naiccon, all these theaters, they just let us be as wild as we want. No one will call you a witch unless it's a compliment, like unless you really are a witch. But yeah, I think it's given us a lot of freedoms and that's just... it's telling of at least art is being accepted because it's been hard to explain these things to especially the older generation.

[00:33:56] They always go like, what's all this about? This is weird. Y'all are scary. And, you know, so nowadays they are curious. They want to even come to the event. They want to see what their children are doing and they wouldn't judge at first it was tough. Now it's much easier to be honest, as children of parents from those eras.

[00:34:16] Naitiemu: It's good that things are changing. Hopefully they'll keep on changing and growing. And I think also, you know, with the kind of systems we've been brought up with it's difficult when you are introducing something that doesn't seem normal. And people maybe just think the worst when it comes to something that's not eight to five kind of lifestyle, which thankfully it's changing with time.

[00:34:38] Seeing as during COVID there was probably no meeting physically. How was COVID for cosplayers in general?

[00:34:46] Ama Waithira: So as it turned out, it was a very good time for cosplayers because we could meet in our houses, but we could not go out, which limits our problems, to be honest.

[00:34:58] We don't want to dress up and go be seen and be policed by people who did not invite us to an event. So we planned a lot of things online, even that Black Fairy Day came out of that because all the people who are used to expressing themselves on a daily are now cooped up in the house, just wondering, is everyone else feeling like I have an idea for every day of the week now?

[00:35:20] Now, when we were planning, we did I think February was Harley Quinn and then March was lockdown, but we kept going. I can't even remember what exactly we were watching, but we would do the watch parties in the house and dress up and that way we are feeling even more comfortable to do it. And by the time the cons were allowed to have us, we were ready.

[00:35:43] We were so ready. It was like, very solid pregame because everyone was in the house stitching, curating weaves, and buying things on Kili Mall and I think it was like a confusingly good time for us because when the time was right and the events were open, everyone had at least three costumes to decide from because the time was enough.

[00:36:04] By November, the people were so ready. I feel like it was just like, proper hype. And the movies that were coming out were also just in time.

[00:36:12] Naitiemu: That's awesome. That's awesome. Glad that you guys had fun. And definitely looking forward to Fandom Arena coming up. Looking forward to what people are going to be creating and what I might be inspired to create. And the stories behind it.

[00:36:28] Adrian: Have you got other plans beyond the event? And maybe just specifically tell people what they should expect, what events are coming and when.

[00:36:38] Ama Waithira: So, all of this is to promote the creations, I'm working on a comic and a short animation series based on these deities from Nubia and Kush and Meroi. So that's why I'm always excited to hear about the masks and hear about new goddesses.

[00:36:55] The collection is so large. That's why they have to be a series because the more I research, the more I find. And I'm like, maybe I can't stop with just two or three. So it should be something that involves the students, my students, and the people that are going to participate in the fandom should get a part in creating this concept, be it their own story or something they can collaborate on or be it adding on to this series that we are coming up with.

[00:37:23] So there's a lot of things we want to do. There's festivals to present all the work that people have created over the years that they've never really shown. We have so many people that, for example, I graduated campus with that they've never seen a place where they fit in to put their stories or their work.

[00:37:41] We have people like the metal people, we've done some music videos with them and just to showcase that for mainstream viewing, because now their work is on YouTube, but no one really gets to go see it in full quality the way it was supposed to be done. And there was a lot of ideologies that, you know, are either cultural, spiritual.

[00:38:02] All of these people had their significance. So there's a lot of things to showcase that is from now till possibly April next year. So yeah, the conversations are vast from comics to music videos to short films.

[00:38:17] Naitiemu: Wonderful. Can't wait for that. That seems like a pretty, pretty exciting lineup of creations.

[00:38:24] Thank you so much for sharing. Anyone with any more thoughts? Thank you for listening in. Please feel free to speak and share your thoughts around this.

[00:38:35] Adrian: Yeah, I was just going to say thank you. Thanks for bringing it to light and getting more people involved. And yeah, really looking forward to seeing cosplay become a regular thing as it has been for the last few years at Nairobi Design Week as well.

[00:38:50] Thank you Wambui for hosting us.

[00:38:51] Naitiemu: Thank you so much.

[00:38:53] Ama Waithira: Asante sana.

In this episode, Ama Waithira invites us into the realm of play as she explores the fascinating world of cosplay. A seasoned animator and lecturer at the Multimedia University of Kenya, she unravels the misconceptions surrounding cosplayers, debunking labels such as demonic often associated with this creative expression in Kenya.

Ama delves into the origins of cosplay and shares her personal motivation for being part of this community. With a mission to popularize and destigmatize cosplay, she emphasizes the importance of play, traditionally considered for children, as a vital aspect of the human experience.

Ama sheds light on the developmental and creative benefits embedded in play and, consequently, in the world of cosplay. Join us to discover the evolving landscape of cosplay in Kenya and how you can become a part of this vibrant community.

Episode Credits

Produced by Nairobi Design

HostAdrian Jankowiak

Producer, Shorts & Artwork: David King'ori

Music: Ngalah Oreyo (@ngalah_oreyo) and Mercy Barno (@merc.b_)