AnimeKon: welcome to the multiverse | Word of mouth

Robert Edison Sandiford visits Barbados’s annual AnimeKon and finds everything from cosplay to sci-fi writers and video games

  • Photo by Andrew Browne photography courtesy animekon

Barbados’s AnimeKon is one of the Caribbean’s biggest festivals of comics and animation

My fairy daughter is getting a henna tattoo, accompanied by a godsister witch, her black pointy hat a giveaway.

Catwoman and a member of Team Rocket slink by. We point at their costumes, gawk as if they’re the real deal.

Soon I’ll be running into a number of Barbados Community College BFA students I’ve taught. Selling their own brand of chocolate chip cookies. Inviting patrons to test-drive their video game based on Caribbean mythology. Sketching under the banner of Bajan-based Beyond Comics.

Since its first edition, AnimeKon has sought a niche beyond Barbados’s calendar of events. Billed as “the Eastern Caribbean’s BEST pop-culture convention and the ultimate Geekcation,” it’s also an alternative showcase of regional talent in media arts.

AnimeKon was founded by Omar Kennedy and Melissa Young in 2010. Bigging-up indigenous creative industries was always part of their vision. “We wanted to bring the comic con experience to the Caribbean for people our age,” says Young, now thirty-four. She and Kennedy, who turns forty this August, knew that could be engineered in a top-class way by involving local costume and fashion designers, graphic artists, fine artists, makeup artists, and gaming developers. “Giving them all the opportunity to unleash their imagination, as well as to network.”

Held at Barbados’s premier conference facility, the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, AnimeKon started out as a single day. Second time out, it grew to two. This year, it’s officially four days, 16 to 19 August. Says Young: “The fans just wanted more.” 

That includes a cosplay catamaran cruise aimed at “those eighteen to thirty” on the opening Thursday. The pop-up playground on the Friday is more family-oriented, with games like Quidditch. Saturday and Sunday anchor the festival, with exhibitors, competitions, gaming, Japanese maid cafés, panel discussions, fitness challenges, and an authors’ lounge. 

Among past guest writers have been Grenadian Tobias Buckell and Barbadian Karen Lord. (In 2011, I joined them on a panel looking at Caribbean speculative fiction.) Comics creators Paris Cullins (of both DC and Marvel) and Randy Stradley (Dark Horse Comics) have stopped by to talk about art and the challenges of breaking into the industry. LeVar Burton (of both Star Trek: The Next Generation and Roots) headlined the inaugural con.

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Actors, educators, performers — from St Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and elseworlds — all have come to share their enthusiasm for the pop-culture multiverse. The theme for 2018 is “World of Wonder.” “We’ve already revealed two of our guests: the actors Manu Bennet [Arrow, Spartacus] and Olivia Olson [Love Actually, Adventure Time]. We have three more guests to announce,” says Young, “one, we hope, from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”

The headiness of the catamaran cruise aside, a highlight of the convention is the cosplay competition for all ages, on dry land. AnimeKon has hosted internationally renowned cosplayers Yaya Han, Hannah of Hanime’s Cosplay, and Knightmage. I expect more than a few of my former charges will be walking around this year’s con as Black Panther, Deadpool, or Thanos.

There may even be a heartman, djablès, or baccou among them, which makes me smile. Now wouldn’t that be daring to disturb the pop-culture multiverse?

 

For more information, visit animekonexpo.com