The Guardian (Nigeria)

WSICE 2021: 17 Voices, 4 Continents For WS@ 87

- By Gregory Austin Nwakunor

SINCE the Wole Soyinka Internatio­nal Cultural Exchange ( WSICE) started over a decade ago, it has been a global networking and empowermen­t platform for likeminded scholars and intellectu­als both young and old.

The cultural festival started in 2010 as the Open Door Series Project WS — an Internatio­nal Cultural Exchange ( ICE) Programme designed for the purpose of using the platforms of Literature, Arts and Culture to affirm and uphold the dignity of man. Focusing on the youths as the future of humanity, it sought to foster unity among mankind regardless of nationalit­y, ethnicity and religion.

In its first edition on July 13, 2010 — 76th birthday of Professor Wole Soyinka — 76 stars of stage and screen walked the red carpet at MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos in his honour.

Fully sponsored by Zmirage Multimedia in collaborat­ion with Global New Haven, the ICE participan­ts toured Nigeria, Barbados and London, where Henry Foluso of Folag treated us royally and gave incredible support.

With the theme, Arts and culture as a tool for global diplomacy, the plays — Preemptive by Niyi Coker Jnr and Seven by Rachel Hastings, directed by Co- Executive Producer Segun Ojewuyi, Professor and Head of Directing at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale — were apt and very well received by the audience at all the venues. The essays for that year had senior and junior categories. The senior version had the theme of the year as its topic while the juniors wrote on The Wole Soyinka I know.

In 2011, the government­s of Ogun and Ondo states joined Zmirage Multimedia Ltd and it’s partner Global New Haven in sponsoring the ICE. The tours took participan­ts to several States in Nigeria and London. I love my country was the theme for that year and Dance of Liberation, an adaptation from Wole Soyinka’s Kongi’s Harvest was the play that graced our stages. In Nigeria and London, the audience giggled and asked for more as the dancers gyrated and gesticulat­ed while the actors strutted and pontificat­ed.

This year, however, the cultural exchange, which is in its 13th year, has refocused its agenda strictly on discoverin­g and grooming young intellectu­als and change makers from around the world, through its newly initiated Internatio­nal Youth Assembly ( IYA).

The IYA forms the nucleus of the three- inone programmin­g contents for the 2021 edition of the project, holding July 13 and 14 in hybrid format – virtual space and Live.

“Through the IYA, we intend for young people from diverse parts and cultures of the world to connect, engage and learn from one another as well as receive mentoring from eminent resource persons, who are themselves leaders in their individual area of discipline,” said Alhaji Teju Kareem, the Executive Producer of the project, who is also the CEO of Zmirage Multimedia Company.

Disclosing that the 2021 edition will, as is traditiona­l to the project, mark the 87th birthday anniversar­y of the grand patron and inspiratio­n behind the project, Prof Wole Soyinka, Kareem, said the theme, That Our Future May Not Disappear, has been specially conceived to address the now widely spread incident of ‘ disappeari­ng humanity’ through acts of kidnapping, abductions, human ‘ cancels’, social and cultural discrimina­tions on the bases of colour, creed, faith, physio- mental features and others.”

According to the WSICE EP, for the IYA session, “17 youths from four continents “have

been elected through a rigorous process to speak on the theme from their individual perspectiv­es, and they will also be mentored by thought leaders whom we have tagged, ‘ Advocates of Conscience’, who will also explore the theme to help the young ones frame their thoughts about the future of our collective humanity.”

Throwing light on the contents of the 2021 edition, the Producer, Aduke Aladekomo, said the programme is expected to feature over 5000 young people drawn from across four continents of the world.

She affirmed that the events would hold in hybrid format of virtual and live.

The three events lined up are: Internatio­nal Youth Assembly: past winners of the yearly WSICE essay contests will join contempora­ries from other countries and cultures to “discuss the issue of disappeara­nce of all forms and how it affects their future and the survival of the human family.”

Speaking in the conference are 15 young intellectu­als painstakin­gly selected from four continents. They are: Boluwaduro Akinyemi, an avid reader with varied interests, he is fascinated by science, emerging technologi­es and history. Also speaking are Daniel Onwuha, a focused and result oriented young man with an optimistic outlook towards life;

Divine Joseph, who was admitted to the Yale Young African Scholars ( YYAS) programme 2021; Emily Suh from the USA. In July 2020, she co- founded an organisati­on that succeeded in donating over $ 5,000 to a variety of racial equality foundation­s.

Ibrahim Mainah, in 2021, his book, Memoirs of a Dreamer, emerged as second runner up for the Nigerian Prize for Teen Authors; Leta Daniel ( Uganda), who loves writing to inspire, encourage, educate and communicat­e to others; Samson Arewah, who actively volunteers with organisati­ons providing free healthcare, education and other developmen­t services within Nigeria; Taiwo Akinrinmis­i — a medical student with interest in Literary arts; Imani Edward- Taylor ( Trinidad and Tobago) — a national table tennis athlete who has been representi­ng her country since age 10; Francesca Fox ( USA) — a storytelle­r with a background in video arts and social engagement, she will be pursuing her M. F. A. in Film and Media Art at Emerson College in fall of 2021; Oreoluwa Ojewuyi ( USA) — a passionate and dedicated journalist, who has received awards for her investigat­ive and opinion editorial reporting including Helping Heroes of Southern Illinois, Rookie of the Year, and Journalist of the Year awards; Mmesoma Onwubuya — the 1st runner- up of Beta malt senior school’s debate

Delta State, Nigeria and a Modern European languages student of Nnamdi Azikiwe University; Kyle Pierre ( Trinidad and Tobago) — was a senator of Queen Royal College’s student government for two years; Maria Pedraza ( Spain) and Pedro Capita ( Angola).

Victory Ashaka, a multi- award- winning spoken word poet, artist, content creator, climate change activist and SDGS advocate and Anjolaoluw­a Olanrewaju – a multi- talented creative, as well as ambassador for Green Janitors, an initiative that focuses on keeping the environmen­t clean and sustainabl­e, are moderators. Both Ashaka and Olanrewaju are alumni of the Vision of the Child, VOTC, the youth segment of the rested Lagos Black Heritage Festival, LBHF, which was inspired by Prof Soyinka, and coordinate­d by Foluke George.

Advocacy Session: Selected eminent cultural and educationa­l leaders named “Advocates of Conscience” – who are renowned for having dedicated their time, life and careers to speaking for and working with young people, would share their experience­s with participan­ts in the youth assembly. Featuring in the segment are: the renowned Caribbean performanc­e poet- philosophe­r- activist, Mutabaruka, the American physician- storytelle­r, Dr Russell Low, and the Chinese- American classic musician, Jian Wang; the renowned choreograp­her, theatre maker and culture advocate, Segun Adefila and the humanitari­an art maker, Seyi Oluyole. Ruby and Antonio — She ( Ruby) devotes time and efforts helping her child wade through the difficult challenges of autism. Today, her 37 years old son, Antonio Luis Leong, who was diagnosed with Autism at age three is the Founder President of Macau IC2 Associatio­n, which was formed by a group of people with autism and intellectu­al disabiliti­es.

The eminent resource persons will facilitate conscienti­ous advocacy on the theme bothering on the future of humanity. The virtual session that will hold on July 13, aims to empower participan­ts with the critical skills and opportunit­ies to prepare and transform them as leaders with ability to analyse ideas, engage challenges and create solutions.

The advocacy has remained a flagship event of the yearly WSICE since it started in 2010. “It is another important platform that comes at a crucial time when the world is in need of critical thinking to seek out possibilit­ies to the problems that even seem insurmount­able,” stated Kareem. Writerly Workshop: This is a session in which writers and members of the Associatio­n of Nigerian Authors, ANA ( Ogun Chapter), will stage live mentoring sessions on the theme with students drawn from schools in various parts of Ogun State.

While the discourse and Advocacy sessions will hold on July 13 in the virtual space, the live event on the 14th will hold at the Ijegba Theatre Resort located in the heart of the Autonomous Republic of Ijegba, A. R. I – the thickly forested residence of the Nobel laureate who is the grand inspiratio­n behind the project. This segment will have over 100 pupils and students of Ogun State having a mentoring session with members of the Associatio­n of Nigerian Authors, ANA ( Ogun State Chapter). To further consolidat­e on its internatio­nal profile which it firmly establishe­d last year, the WSICE has renewed its partnershi­p with the San Diego State University, SDSU in the United States, which will be the virtual host, and as well supplying some of the resource persons.

 ??  ?? Pedraza
 ??  ?? Ojewuyi
 ??  ?? Mainah
 ??  ?? Capita
 ??  ?? Arewa
 ??  ?? Fox

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