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WSICE at 10 celebrates Wole Soyinka at 85

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Soyinka

It was fun and excitement last year in the forest of Ijegba, Ibara Housing Estate, Kenta, Idiaba, Abeokuta, as over 1,084 children from across the country encountered venerable writer and Africa’s first Nobel Prize winner in Literature, Professor Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka (Kongi).

Perched at the wooded end of a picturesque estate, the redbrick house of Soyinka was serene and welcoming to students from over 21 states of the federation and some others mobilised from about 10 schools around Abeokuta, who sat with him for an interactive session.

This year, the amphitheatre located in the forested neighbourhood of Soyinka’s Autonomous Residence of Ijegba (A.R.I), in a reality show kind of setting, the 84 finalists selected from over 300 entries collected nationwide, wrote analysis of three of Soyinka’s poems, Flowers for my Land, Children of this Land and Harvest of Hate, taken from three different collections: A shuttle in the crypt, Samarkand and the other markets I have known and Idanre & other poems.

The yearly Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange, WSICE clocks 10 on July 13, 2019, having staged its maiden edition in July 2010 – to mark the 76th birthday anniversary of Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde Akinwande Soyinka, who is also 85 on July 13, 2019.

The WSICE, a prime project of the OpenDoor Series, is essentially anchored around Soyinka’s humanist principles as enunciated in his body of works and his consistent patriotic engagement with the socio-political and cultural affairs of Nigeria, Africa and the world at large.

July 2019 is, indeed, a landmark for the WSICE project primarily motivated by the life and career of the quintessential artiste – dramatist, poet, theatre director, teacher, culture scholar and public intellectual. Clocking 85 is as well a milestone in the life of the illustrious son of Africa; distinguished father of Nigerian and African arts and cultural heritage, who is also an iconic global citizen.

The programme directorate of WSICE has scheduled Friday July 12 -Monday July 15 for the celebration of the great man; and as well to mark a decade of consistent programming, which has featured over 10,000 secondary students and more than 200 local and international resource persons, who have served as either speakers, artistes, mentors to the students and youths among others.

Since inception, the Open Door Series/Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange has always emphasised the global dimension of its objectives. And this is simply premised on the fact that the force vitale behind the project, Oluwole Akinwande Soyinka, is a quintessential artist and cultural icon whose accomplishments transcend his place and continent of birth. A global citizen whose work and impact as an advocate for the greatness of humanity, Soyinka operates across spaces and boundaries, hence the character of the project designed to honour him.

The first edition in 2010, WSICE76, featured two theatrical productions that were presented. One was Preemptive, written by the US-based Professor Niyi Coker (Jnr) of the University of Missouri St. Louis; and Seven, by Racheal Hastings, then an undergraduate student of SIU, Carbondale, USA. Featuring in the cast are: Christopher Collins, Rachel Hastings, Tania Dawn Coambs, Basha Sharone Evans, Cortez Johnson and Racquel McKenzie.

In 2011, the WSICE77 edition presented Samm Art Williams’ Home as directed by Ojewuyi, and featured a mixed cast from the US, UK and Nigeria, with the renowned Nigerian dance artiste, Peter Badejo (OBE), then based in the United Kingdom, conducting a dance workshop.

The essay segment brought two international students: Olumayokun Ogunde and Ukachi Chibueze to participate join 75 other students here. The Advocacy segment saw Robert Fox, a professor of English at the SIU, Carbondale speaking on ‘From Tigritude to Transcedence: the Conscience and Conscientiousness of Wole Soyinka’.

The second phase of the edition featured a Blues Tea Party held at the Africa Centre in London, and anchored by Stanley Amah, a Nigerian lawyer based in London. There was also a debate session that featured mostly Africa students selected from schools around the UK.

Co-Executive Producer of the WSICE, Teju Kareem, stated: “The OpenDoorSeries/WSICE is not to be misconstrued as a mere celebration of Wole Soyinka’s date of birth — the man is not, in anyway, really interested in such vanities as staging a party to celebrate his yearly birthday — but the project is designed to celebrate the quintessential artiste as an eminent promoter of the good of humanity. And especially to set his exemplary philosophies and visionary ideals as promoted in his works and lifestyle as veritable examples for peoples across race, gender, age, religious and political persuasions, especially the young ones, who need models they can relate to.”

Remarkably, the 2019 edition will also mark a grand return of the OpenDoorSeries/WSICE to Lagos, where its maiden edition was staged, then at the MUSON Centre. Also, as was the design at its birth, the Project will extend its programming beyond its traditional base in Abeokuta, Ogun State.

While the mostly students/youth-focused programmes like Essay Writing, Workshop, Youth Creative Expressions (Do Your Own Thing, DYOT) etc. would still take place in Abeokuta, Ogun State, which had served as traditional base of the programme in the past eight years; the mentoring session will hold in Akure, Ondo State. The adult session – Advocacy session, drama, dance and poetry performances, film screening, book presentations etc. would hold at the Freedom Park in Lagos.

Kareem stated: “The resolve to take the 10th anniversary celebration to the Freedom Park, which remains the topmost hub for artistic productions and creative expressions in the country, is partly in recognition of Wole Soyinka’s status as the patron saint of the Park, and of creativity in Nigeria and Africa.”

The renowned theatre designer, scenographer, and chief executive officer of the popular production outfit, Z-Mirage Multimedia Company, promised that the 2019 edition of the annual programme, will unveil the future characteristics and direction of the project, which he co-founded with the theatre director, Professor Segun Ojewuyi, of the United States-based GlobalNewHaven.


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