THE 14th edition of the annual Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange (WSICE) holds July 13 in hybrid format – virtual and on-site. The general advocacy theme for this year’s edition revolves around Good Governance & Nation Building. According to WSICE’s Executive Producer and Managing Director/CEO of the lead promoters of the project, Zmirage Multimedia Company (ZMC), Dr. Teju Kareem, the thematic thrust is to reflect on the mood of the Nigerian nation, and indeed many nations of the world, dealing with the existential problem of navigating the challenges of nation building through the prisms of good governance, individual and national interests and national development.
The youth section of the edition will focus on the central motif of the project: mentoring and grooming the next generation of thinkers and eventual leaders who will work for the overall national interest of lifting their country and their society to the great height of human and material development.
Kareem also hinted that the 2023 edition is a prelude to the 15th edition, which is primed to mark Soyinka’s 90th birthday in July 2024. The working theme for the 2024 edition would be E.N.I.O.G.U.N, which though, set out as acronym, is the renowned alias of Soyinka, encapsulating his character traits and essences as a patriot, global cultural icon and humanist. A series of events including competitions and public promotion and campaigns will preface the edition.
Prof. Wole Soyinka
The main activity of the 2023 edition will be the annual Essay Writing Contest, which features secondary school students drawn from across the country. They will write on the topic ‘Wole Soyinka: Humanism, Artistry and Nationalism.’ The idea, as has been the tradition of WSICE since inception, is to explore the ideals of Soyinka, whose life-career trajectory has manifested as an irrepressible patriot, committed nationalist and adherent advocate for good governance, as a condition for effective and meaningful nation building. The objective is to use his life and career example as a template for understanding the dynamics of nation building, especially reflecting on the intellectual and material resources required to offer the necessary sacrifices towards accomplishing the ideals.
Nation building has been the main thrust of the objective of the project since inception, and it has been serially explored in the context of the ideals that have shaped the vision and practice of the “patron saint” of the project, Wole Soyinka, the thinker, writer, rights activist and global humanist. Other ideals explored in past editions, also in the context of Soyinka’s life-long pursuits, have been freedom of thoughts and expressions, rights to life and choices, social justices, and human capital development.
Activities will climax on July 13, 2023 at Ijegba Forestage, Abeokuta, Ogun State, the home of the project’s ‘patron saint.’ Selected students from across the country will write an essay on the aforementioned topic, ‘Wole Soyinka: Humanism, Artistry and Nationalism.’ The Educational/Intellectual engagement of the students on the theme through Essay Writing Competitions.
For this edition, 89 students would on Thursday, July 13, converge on the base of the project at the Ijegba Forestage Theatre to write the essay in the full glare of the public, including their parents/guardians, teachers as well as other members of the public. This students drawn from around Nigeria writing on the theme: Wole Soyinka: Humanism, Artistry & National. The objective is to deepen their understanding of the dynamics of nation building, especially to think through the examples already established through Soyinka’s personal life and intervention in public discourses and engagements.
The number of the students-participants in the essay writing session is 89 — to tally with the 89th birthday anniversary of the grand inspiration behind the project, Soyinka, the writer, rights activists and polemicists, in whose honour the project was birthed in 2010.
Winners of the essay writing competitions will be unveiled on Thursday, July 13, the actual birthday of the patron saint of the project. The entries in English language will be 800 words minimum in text volume. This is a session of free cultural expressions by participants in the project, featuring storytelling, spoken word, poetry, musical, theatrical performances, and film screening, etc.
The WSICE is organised on the platform of OpenDoor Series Project WS, an international cultural exchange programme designed for the purpose of using the platforms of arts (literary & performing) and culture to affirm and uphold the dignity of man. Organised and sponsored by Zmirage Multimedia Ltd (Nigeria & UK), led by Dr. Teju Kareem, and jointly promoted with Global NewHaven, led by Prof. Segun Ojewuyi, who is the Dean of College of Art & Media, Southern Illinois University (SIU), Carbondale, US. The OpenDoorSeries continues to enjoy support from Ogun State Government.
Prof. Soyinka receiving a copy of Igho Goes to Farm from the author Anote Ajeluorou in the 2019 edition of WSICE at his Forest of Ijegba home, Abeokuta
According to Dr. Kareem, “The youths are the key to bringing about change and prosperity in Nigeria and around the world. It is our duty to engage them and ensure that their thinking and goals are oriented towards progress for the motherland and humanity. The Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange (wsice) mission is to reaffirm and elevate the dignity of man through the platforms of literature, arts, and culture. Project WSICE seeks to create unity among mankind regardless of nationality, culture, or religion by focusing on youth as the future of humanity. Other core value propositions of the WSICE are fostering unity, bolstering integrity, and instilling qualities of leadership in the young people.”
Soyinka, as a ‘Global Humanist’, has “exemplified and advocated for social justice, democracy and cultural preservation through his careers as a writer, rights activist, and teacher. He has been a strong advocate for free speech, fought against human rights abuses locally and globally and paid heavy personal price as a result. His extensive publications, lectures and creative enterprises have all addressed the fervent societal challenges of his time and for his country; a more equitable and just nationhood,” stated Dr. Kareem.
To celebrate the 89th birthday anniversary (July 13) of Soyinka as is WSICE’s tradition since inception, the focus remains the children and youth of Nigeria and the world. Central to the heart of the project is the Essay Writing Competition where young people are given topics reflective of current national or international concern as they touch on the larger-than-life personality of Prof. Soyinka.