By Anote Ajeluorou
As the 79th birthday celebration for Africa’s first black Nobel laureate draws near (July 13), organizers of Open Door Series Project WS, a platform for International Cultural Exchange, is set to flag off a series of cultural activities to mark it. An initiative of Zmirage boss, Teju Wase Kareem, the programme has evolved over the past three years to include an international Essay competition for senior secondary school students, advocacy lectures, tours, drama and cultural presentations.
The Project WS brand, which was inspired by the essence and ideals of the Nobel laureate in Literature, Prof. Wole Soyinka, seeks to create a better understanding for global cultural concerns. According to Kareem, “These ideals, summed up in the artist's humanism as reflected in his globally-acclaimed roles as a cultural, civil rights and political activism, are the pedestal on which we have built the programme of the Open Door Series.
“Soyinka's birthday anniversary on July 13 was deliberately chosen as the presentation date of the event annually. Project WS started with WS76 with the play Preemptive and Seven in 2010, and it featured a troupe of American actors and theatre scholars on a tour to the Caribbean and over five states in Nigeria including the Federal Capital Territory. Project WS77 in 2011 was with the theme ‘I Love My Country’; and it hosted 77 senior secondary school students from all over the federation and the Diaspora, who competed in the essay competition and also took part in the cultural exchange programme. They were also opportuned to share moments with the Nobel laureate in a mentoring session at his home in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
“Project WS78 was another celebration of the essence of the artist in the society using Wole Soyinka as a reference point. In a bid to instill a sense of patriotism in the hearts of young ones, especially the multitude participating in the project, it was tagged ‘The Mind of a Patriot’. And, as in previous editions, the young ones had opportunity to share moments with the global citizen and cultural icon, Soyinka.
According to Kareem, “The 2013 edition is premised on the theme: ‘Memoirs for our Future’; and it would hold on the traditional July 13 --- being the 79th birthday anniversary of Prof. Soyinka.
“This year, we’ll be having the Senior Secondary schools essay competition, play productions, cultural presentations -- all designed to herald the 2014 edition that would mark the 80th birthday anniversary celebration of Soyinka's birthday. A grand programme designed with novel artistic and educational items has also been planned for the 2014 edition”.
He stated that the main goal in the Open Door Series was to combat fear, violence and its contingent reactions through the use of education, arts and culture.
To herald this year’s project, Kareem also noted, “WS79 is a precursor to WS80, which is a highly significant year for us all. Prof. Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka who is the symbol and anchor of the WS Project will be 80 years old next year and the project seeks to mark that very significant date in significant ways.
“It is important to note that we are not marking the day because it’s a birthday but we intend to mark the day because it symbolizes for us all a continuation of the life of an inspirational man who has fought and is still fighting for the dignity of man, the rights of the individual and the unity and security of his country, our country”.
He said a lot was being planned for WS80 including the essay competition, children’s cultural presentation/advocacy summit, tours, flag off WS80 essay competition, and presentation of Memoirs for our Future, a book that will be unveiled by Soyinka in London. It’s a compilation of the winning essays from WS76 to WS78 as well as other selected essays from submissions for all the years, with Soyinka himself writing the foreword to the book. He will also flag off the WS80 essay competition to the Diaspora students at the summit that will hold during the event.