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WSICE 2020 in throes of New World Order

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Undeterred by the COVID-19 rage and its attendant disruption of the social order, the Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange (WSICE) is set to hold its yearly programme, which usually coincides with the celebration of the birthday anniversary of an illustrious son of Africa and global citizen, Oluwole Akinwande Soyinka — the poet, dramatist and scholar, who is the 1986 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Every year for three days, the events of the WSICE are held across the country and other parts of the world with a live essay competition that draws participation from students of secondary schools and tertiary institutions, a cultural advocacy session, lectures, and symposium on humanity as well as poetry and theatrical performances.

This year, due to the peculiar circumstances of the pandemic, the WSICE will not be able to hold in a physical setting; but as is becoming the new normal, “we will be operating in the digital space,” stated Teju Kareem, the Executive Producer of the project and CEO of Zmirage.

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According to Kareem, preparations are on for the event, which is organised by the Zmirage Multimedia Company. He added, the organisers would ensure that the events command quality attention and meet the same international standards that have earned the WSICE global respect in its over a decade existence.”

This year, the events will run for three days, July 12 to 14.

The theme for the year’s project is: I Am Because You Are, which is drawn from Ubuntu, the Southern African philosophy which epitomises the principle of shared values that ensures the sustenance and survival of the human family.

Kareem said: “The theme is inspired by observed factors and motives behind the responses of peoples and governments across the world to the challenges pushed forward by the rage of the pandemic. In particular, the obvious interdependence of our collective humanity has been brought to the fore in the way people and States have risen to support others experiencing the dire effects of the pandemic.”

The main programme item, the Advocacy will run for two days, and will focus on the topic: Pandemic: Pursuit of individual Happiness and our common Humanity.

The first day (July 12) will feature the main conference paper by Prof Lilly Cheng of Chinese Cultural institute, San Diego University, USA, who would speak on the lead theme: I Am Because You Are, espousing on the interdependence of our collective humanity as evinced in the incidences and situations around the COVID-19 pandemics.

Cheng is a professor in the School of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences and Executive Director of Chinese Studies Institute at San Diego State University. She is also the Managing Director of the Confucius Institute at SDSU.

She would be supported by Dr. Li Michael, an educator specialising in the teaching of the Chinese national treasure, the Abacus; President of Beijing Shenmo Education Group, which he founded in 1998, with its headquarter in Beijing, China.

Other speakers at the first session, who would be responding to Prof. Cheng’s presentation include: Shabaka Thompson (Trinidad & Tobago), a cultural leader with extensive experience in carnival, event management and production, working over three decades in Canada, Trinidad, Britain and Africa; and Keyna Eilson (Brazil), a curator, writer, researcher, heiress Griot and shaman, narrator, singer, ancient chronicler, and a member of the African Heritage Commission for laureation of the Valongo Wharf region as a World Heritage Site (UNESCO). Also in the panel is Lucile Huguet (France), a journalist who works for a French public TV channel: Franceinfo. She holds a master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Caen and another Master of Journalism in the France’s oldest school of Journalism ESJ Paris.

The second day (July 13) will have a lead paper on Reimagining Our World After COVID-19 to be delivered Professor Segun Ojewuyi, a theatre and culture scholar, who aside being the head of Directing at the Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, USA, is also co-Executive Producer of the WSICE.

Five papers to be presented by eminent culture researchers and scholars from five countries will follow this. They are: Father Joseph Brown (USA), a Roman Catholic priest and professor in the Department of Africana Studies at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where he has taught since 1997, with research interests in literature, religion, aesthetics and cultural history, Cristian R. Aquino-Sterling (Spain), a teacher and educational researcher whose current effort is examining 21st century innovations in (bilingual) teacher education theory, curriculum and pedagogies devised for preparing P-12 teachers capable of meeting the educational needs of minoritised linguistically diverse students attending mainstream or bilingual/dual language school contexts.

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Also expected to contribute are Dr. Ngozi Nwaneri (Nigeria), a global and social justice theorist with professional expertise in public policy. She has doctoral degree in social and political philosophy with research interest in global justice; Dave Guzha (Zimbabwe), a writer, theatre director, filmmaker and art administrator, renowned as one of the critical artistic voices against the regime of the late Robert Mugabe and Nathan Kiwere (Uganda), a journalist, filmmaker, author and publisher from Uganda, whose research interest is in visual arts and cultural anthropology.

The second and integral part of the year’s cultural exchange is the essay competition, which targets the youth, and is open in two categories: Junior — Ages 12 and 17 for Secondary/High School students (350-400 words) and Senior — Ages 17-22 — College, University and Tertiary level students (800-1000 words).

The submission of essays, which started on June 5, closes on June 26.

The competition is open to participants in five linguistic zones — English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese. A winner and a runner-up will emerge from each of the zones. Also, a Global Winner will emerge in the two categories.

The winners from each category and linguistic zones will be announced on July 14 during a scheduled Meet & Greet session with Professor Soyinka in the same virtual/digital space.

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