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Celebrating Soyinka At 90: WSICE Explores Ideas Around National Interest, Good Governance

With “E.N.I.O.G.U.N – Engaging National Interest on Good Governance, Understanding and Nation-Building”, as its theme, all is set for the 15th edition of the annual Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange, WSICE,which will hold in two tranches: July 13 to 16 (virtual and onsite) in Nigeria; and July 19 to July 27 in London.

Organised in collaboration with partners located in Nigeria and overseas, the edition is coinciding with the 90th birthday anniversary (July 13) of the Nobel laureate, Professor Oluwole Akinwande Soyinka, whose exceptional life story and as well 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 and as well, human/civil rights activist. Specifically, the WS90/WSICE2024 theme is “E.N.I.O.G.U.N” – a summation of the over seven decades commitment and struggles of Soyinka as a nationalist, patriot, and humanist – as can be gleaned from his voluptuous creative works and consistent public engagement.

WSICE, in a statement announcing the event, stated that the theme E.N.I.O.G.U.N “is to sum up his lifelong commitment to the cause of nation building through his relentless fight for the 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.”

According to the statement, the celebration will embrace several programming ideas that have been the features of the WSICE since its birth, including, Essay Writing, 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, freedom from all forms of shackles and, respect for the fundamental human and civil rights of all.

Reflecting on the theme E.N.I.O.G.U.N – E-Engaging N-National I-Interest O-n G-ood Governance U-nderstanding and N-ationB-uilding for WSICE 2024, the CEO of ZMirage Multimedia Company, and Executive Producer of the WSICE, Dr. Teju Kareem, stated: “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. “To celebrate the 90th birthday anniversary (July 13) of Wole Soyinka as is WSICE tradition since inception, the focus remains the advancement of interest of the children and youth of Nigeria and the world.”

The youth section of the edition will focus 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. Scheduled to hold on Saturday, July 13, at Ijegba Forestage, Abeokuta, Ogun State, include: Students Essay Writing; excerpts from previous Winners Essay; Youth Creative Expression (Do Your Own Thing) and Culture House Reception.

In its 15th year, the annual WSICE essay competition has garnered over 10,000 essays written by students, mostly the Senior Secondary Students (SSS) cadre in the age range 12-17 years old. It has also conferred over 90 prizes on 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 Saturday, 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. These students would be drawn from around Nigeria writing on the theme: “The Many Lives Of An Irresistible Patriot, Humanist, & Rights Activist.”

The objective is to deepen their understanding of the dynamics of nation building, especially to think through the examples already established through Wole Soyinka’s personal life and intervention in public discourses and engagements. Winners of the Essay writing competitions will be unveiled on July 13, the actual birthday of the patron saint of the project. NB: 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 the Ijegba Forestage, the WSICE theatre site in Soyinka’s backyard, to engage in a hybrid DoYour-Own-Thing open-air creative expressions. The event will be live televised and streamed via various social media platforms.

Cultural Evening: An evening of sight and sound

This will be followed by an evening of “Sight & Sound” designed in creative performances – music, drama, dance, poetry and spoken words, fashion parade, craft displays and film screening, among others. A centerpiece of the evening will be the presentation of the play ‘The Noble Warrior – Eni Ogun’, 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. Staging of Soyinka’s classic, The Lion and the Jewel by Live Theatre Lagos, will hold July 12-14, and July 19-21, at RadissonBlu Anchorage, V/ Island Lagos; and Nigerian Law School, VI, Lagos.

Advocacy Session

Since 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.

It is guaranteed to be attended by topnotch resource persons from the academia – professors and researchers – as well as professionals in various disciplines of the arts. 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.”

Other features of the event include “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. The works have been sourced from personal collections of Soyinka as well as the WSICE Art Gallery located in Abeokuta, Ogun State. The exhibition event will also feature a rare collection of the manuscripts of the famous Onitsha literature – a passion project by the laureate.

Film Screening: ‘The Man Died’

The highlight of the UK leg of the celebration will be 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 the New York University, Abu-Dhabi, where he is currently 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 & 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 coproduced with Prof Segun Ojewuyi (immediate past Dean of College of Art & Media, Southern Illinois University, SIU, Carbondale, USA), the OpenDoorSeries continues to enjoy supports 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 the 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 toward progress for the motherland and humanity,” stated Dr. Teju Kareem.

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