The Guardian (Nigeria)
WSICE 2021: 17 Voices, 4 Continents For WS@ 87
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.