June 14, 2024
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WSICE 2024 honours Soyinka at 90 with focus on national interest, good governance, others

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  • May 15, 2024
  • 9 min read
WSICE 2024 honours Soyinka at 90 with focus on national interest, good governance, others

By Editor

THE 15th edition of the annual Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange (WSICE) is set to hold in two phases. First will be from July 13 to 16 (virtual and onsite) in Nigeria, and from July 19 to July 27 in London. Organised in collaboration with partners located in Nigeria and overseas, this year’s edition coincides with the 90th birthday celebration (July 13) of the Nobel laureate, Professor Oluwole Akinwande Soyinka, whose exceptional life story as well as illustrious career as a quintessential artist and global humanist, inspired the birth of the project in 2010.

The general theme, as is traditional to the project since birth, is premised on the general condition of humanity, but specifically for this milestone edition, it is focused on Nigeria, Soyinka’s land of birth to which he has devoted his life-long career as a multi-talented/skilled artist, public intellectual as well as human andcivil rights activist.

Specifically, the WS90/WSICE2024 theme is ‘E.N.I.O.G.U.N – Engaging National Interest on Good Governance, Understanding and Nation-Building’ – a summation of over seven decades of commitment and struggles of Soyinka as a nationalist, patriot and humanist, as can be gleaned from his voluptuous creative works and consistent public engagement.

In particular, the theme E.N.I.O.G.U.N is to sum up his life-long commitment to the cause of nation building through his relentless fight for national interest that would ensure good governance for the wellbeing of the general citizenry. While the theme domiciles appreciation of Soyinka’s commitment to his birth country, Nigeria, it is by extension an appreciation of his global service to humanity in general, which has seen him advocating for justice, freedom and respect for the rights and freedom of citizens all over the world. The theme will be the focus of all the programme items of the edition.

WS 90/WSICE 2024 celebration will embrace several programming ideas that have been the features WSICE since inception, including, Essay Writing competition, Advocacy, Do Your Own Thing and performances. Essentially, the programme is designed to celebrate the values and virtues of Soyinka all grounded in his struggles to ensure social and cultural justice and freedom from all forms of shackles and respect for the fundamental human and civil rights of all.

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Prof. Wole Soyinka

Reflecting on the theme E.N.I.O.G.U.N for WSICE 2024, the Executive Producer of WSICE and CEO of ZMirage Multimedia Company, Dr. Teju Kareem, staid, “Prof. Soyinka has pursued the betterment of society through his support for freedom and the common good of all irrespective of age, class, gender, religious or political persuasions, making his work a global service to humanity. His career spanning academia, literature, and activism exemplifies a profound commitment to creating a just and equitable world, thus encapsulating the essence of E.N.I.O.G.U.N as both a personal and a universal pursuit.”

As usual, the features of the 2024 edition include the youth section that focuses on the central motif of the project: mentoring and grooming the new generation of thinkers and eventual leaders who would work for the overall national interest of lifting their country and their society to greater heights of human and material development. On July 13, 22023 at Ijegba Forestage, Abeokuta, Ogun State, students will write an essay just as excerpts from previous winners will be read and Youth Creative Expression (Do Your Own Thing) and Culture House Reception will be held.

In its 15th year, the annual WSICE Essay Writing competition has garnered over 10,000 essays written by students, mostly Senior Secondary Students (SSS) cadre in the age range 12-17 years old. It has also conferred over 90 prizes for winners in at least 23 states of Nigeria, as well as 30 winners from five linguistics zones of the world. For this edition, 90 students would on Thursday, July 13, converge for the project at 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. These students would be drawn from around Nigeria and write on the theme: The Many Lives of an irresistible Patriot, Humanist and Rights Activist. 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. Winners of the Essay Writing competition will be unveiled on 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.

After the reception for the winners, over 1000 youths would converge at Ijegba Forestage, the WSICE theatre site in Soyinka’s backyard, to engage in a hybrid Do-Your-Own-Thing open-air creative expressions. The event will be live televised and streamed via various social media platforms.

‘An Evening of Sight and Sound’ designed in creative performances — music, drama, dance, poetry and spoken words, fashion parade, craft displays and film screening, among others will ffollowthissession immediately. A centrepiece performances of the evening will be a presentation of The Noble Warrior – ENI OGUN on July 13 at June 12 Cultural Centre, Abeokuta, Ogun State. It’s a theatrical masterpiece, written by Aiyeko-ooto Onadele, and produced by Adubiifa Network Company in collaboration with WSICE, which explores themes of bravery, struggle, and the human spirit, resonating deeply with Soyinka’s literary legacy.

The second presentation will be The Lion and the Jewel, a staging of Soyinka’s classic, The Lion and the Jewel by Live Theatre, Lagos on July 12-14, and July 19-21. Venue is RadissonBlu Anchorage, Victoria Island, Lagos and at the Nigerian Law School, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Right from inception, the annual WSICE event has always hosted an Advocacy Session that is either in the form of a conference, seminar, symposium or debates. This session always features eminent scholars and resource persons cutting across disciplines, age, gender and creed. The 2024 edition, being a milestone, will be held in collaboration with the Nigeria Academy of Letters (NAL), and has been slated for July 11 at the prestigious Main Auditorium, University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos. Top-notch resource persons from the academia — professors and researchers — as well as professionals in various disciplines of the arts will be in attendance. The session will be followed by a dinner reception for guests. A key member of the diplomatic community will be playing host to distinguished guests in a rare show of solidarity to honour the first Africa Nobel laureate in recognition of his decades of advocacy for the good of our collective humanity.

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Executive Producer of WSICE and CEO of ZMirage Multimedia Company, Dr. Teju Kareem

ALSO, the Lagos – London celebration has been crafted on the theme, NINE Season of KONGI, and will be hosted by The Africa Centre. This is an international event rooted in the concept of charity-begins-at-home, as the event will feature a multi-podal programme content, including: African I-D-E-N-T-I-T-Y (AI) – a visionary exhibition project, curated under the Vision of the Child (VoTC) umbrella to promote creativity, education, and social transformation across the continent. Anchored on the theme ‘Redefining African Identity through Integrity (In celebration of Wole Soyinka at 90’, the exhibition, The African I-D-E-N-T-I-T-Y initiative, is conceived from the themes of the 2013 and 2014 editions of VoTC: “Good Governance and Democracy in Nigeria” and “One Thousand and One Faces of Corruption” – which were themes conceived by Soyinka himself while serving as project supervision and grand patron for VoTC and Lagos Black Heritage Festival (LBHF), now rested annual project promoted by Lagos State Government during the tenure of Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola. With a focus on promoting good governance and democracy amidst the challenges of corruption, AI encapsulates the essence of Africa through the principles of Diversity, Economic Development, Nationhood, Trade, Innovation, Talent, and Youthfulness.

Similarly, ‘WS: A Life in Full’, an exhibition of portraits of the laureate from childhood through adulthood, a collection of drawings and paintings by different artists of varying ages and persuasions, and sourced from personal collections of Soyinka as well as the WSICE Art Gallery located in Abeokuta, Ogun state will be showed. The exhibition event will also feature a rare collection of the manuscripts of the famous Onitsha literature — a passion project by the laureate.

The film screening session will highlight the UK leg of the celebration, featuring the London premiere of The Man Died, the feature film inspired by Soyinka’s classic prison memoir of same title. Featuring top bills in Nigerian film industry, including Wale Ojo, Sam Dede, Nobert Young, Francis Onwochei, Christiana Osunniyi, and Hollywood actor, Abraham Amkpa, and others, the film is directed by Awam Amkpa, Soyinka’s former student and professor of Theatre, Media and Cultural Aesthetics at New York University, Abu-Dhabi, where he is currently the Dean of Humanities and Deputy Provost. The Film screening event will also feature in the course of the duration – July 19-27 — other films, especially documentaries on the life and career of Soyinka. Organised in collaboration with The Africa Centre, the event enjoys support and participation of reputable institutions in the UK such as the London School of Economics, Bournemouth University, amongst others.

The WSICE is organised on the platform of the OpenDoorSeries ProjectWS, an international cultural exchange programme designed for the purpose of using the platforms of Arts (literary and performing) and Culture to affirm and uphold the dignity of man. Organised and sponsored by Zmirage Multimedia Ltd (Nigeria & UK) led by Dr. Kareem, and co-produced with Prof. Segun Ojewuyi (former Dean of College of Art & Media, Southern Illinois University (SIU), Carbondale, US), the OpenDoorSeries continues to enjoy support from public and corporate organisations, especially Ogun State Government.

“The Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange 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 young people. 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,” stated Dr. Kareem.

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