COVID-19: Academics, culture advocates gather online for Soyinka @86

The 11th Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange started on a good note on Sunday with the playwright, essayist, and social critic reciting poetry to participants online.

Many eminent Nigerians including the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, (Ojaja II) featured on the programme conducted via Zoom.

The WSICE 2020, billed for between July 12 and 14, was packaged to annually celebrate the lofty ideals and birthday of the Nobel laureate who clocks 86 today.

The organisers noted that Soyinka’s nobility of character and illustrious global credential as a humanist and advocate for social justice inspired the project.

The project’s Executive Producer and Chief Executive Officer, Z-Mirage Multimedia, Teju Kareem, noted that many like-minded academics and culture advocates from across the world would participate in engaging sessions to deepen this year’s theme titled, “I AM because YOU ARE.”

He added that conversations around the Soyinka conference holding via Zoom would also interrogate the sub-theme, “Pandemic: Pursuit of individual happiness and our common humanity; and reimagining our world after COVID-19.”

Kareem stated, “Project WSICE 2020 is exploring the concept of UBUNTU, I Am because YOU ARE, which epitomises the principle of shared values that ensure the sustenance and survival of the human race/family. The theme is inspired by the compassion, philanthropy and altruistic responses of people, corporations and governments to the challenges pushed forward by the rage of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Some of the speakers for the conference include Prof. Li-Rong Lilly Cheng of the Chinese Cultural Centre, San Diego University, USA; an educator and President, Beijing Shenmo Education Group, Dr Michael Li; a women empowerment advocate, Dr Bunmi Oyinsan (Nigeria/Canada); an education researcher, Dr Cristian Aquino-Sterling (Spain); a culture researcher from Trinidad & Tobago, Shabaka Thompson and a South African education administrator, Leolyn Jackson.

Others include a theatre and culture scholar, head of Directing at the Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, USA and co-Executive Producer of the WSICE, Prof Segun Ojewuyi; the keynote speaker, Prof. Joseph Brown, a Roman Catholic priest who teaches in the Africana Studies Department of the same university as Ojewuyi; Ugandan publisher/filmmaker, Nathan Kiwere; a global development policy expert from Nigeria, Dr Ngozi Nwaneri; a journalist from France, Lucille Huguet; a language teacher/researcher from France, Veronique Maisier and a theatre artist and social activist from Zimbabwe, Daves Guzha.

According to the organisers, the project also features exhibition, cultural performances and an international essay competition with over 2000 entries received from participants in Africa, Europe, China, South and North America.

“The essays were written and adjudged in five languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Chinese. The winners of the competition, which has monetary rewards in American dollars, will be announced via Zoom on Tuesday,” stated Haneefat Ikharo, producer of the project in the last five years.

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