By TOSIN AJIRIRE
It is time for celebration as the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, turns 79 tomorrow, Saturday July 13. To make his birthday a grand affair, a number of activities have been lined up, and the most significant of it all is the Open Door Series Project WS79 organized by Zmirage Multimedia Limited.
According to Alhaji Teju Wasee Kareem, CEO, Zmirage and Executive Producer of the annual WS project, the Open Door Series Project is a veritable platform for international cultural exchange, which has been earmarked to celebrate the creative ideals and virtues of the iconic Soyinka.
This year’s programme tagged “Memoirs For Our Future” shall feature a drama presentation entitled, Trials of Brother Jero, one of the popular plays of Prof. Soyinka, musical and cultural shows, international essay competition as well as advocacy lectures.
However, the uniqueness of this year’s programme is that the klieg light rather than focus on the celebrant, it will beam on 79 children who have been invited from different schools in Lagos State to celebrate with Soyinka.
“The Project WS brand was inspired by the essence and ideals of the Nobel Laureate in literature, Professor Wole Soyinka.
These ideals are summed up in the artiste’s humanism as reflected in his globally acclaimed roles as a cultural, civil rights and political activist and these are the pedestals 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,” Kareem explained.
He further revealed that “Memoirs For Our Future” apart from being the theme of this year’s project is also the title of a new book – a compilation of the winning essays from WS76 to WS78 as well as other selected essays from submissions for all the years.
“The Nobel Laureate himself is writing the foreword to the book,” Kareem said. While shedding light on the birthday programme, sultry actress and producer of WS79, Mrs. Lillian Amah-Aluko, told TS Weekend that the Performing Arts Workshop And Studio (PAWS) led by Kenneth Uphopho will tomorrow at 7pm stage the play, Trials of Brother Jero, at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos.
But before this, children costumed in gorgeous attires will dazzle on the red carpet. However, earlier in the morning, 79 children will take part in an essay competition, which will take place at the Freedom Park, Lagos.
The grand winner will smile home with N250,000 and a laptop, the first runner-up will receive N150,000 and a laptop while the second runner-up will get N100,000 and a laptop. All participating schools will equally receive desktop computers. According to Lillian Amah, shortly after the essay competition, 1000 kids from different schools in Lagos will lock horn with the 79 children in a spelling competition on drama, dance and poetry.
“Later, all the children will file out and join the cast and crew of the play to cut the birthday cake,” she said. In continuation of the birthday shindig, the following day, the children will proceed to Abeokuta, Ogun State where Prof. Wole Soyinka will receive them in his house.
After the reception, they will move to the Cultural Centre, Kuto where 1000 other children costumed in colourful Adire (batik) will join them and speak on the theme, “Memoirs For Our Future”. The First Lady of Ogun State, Mrs. Olufunso Amosun, will be the Special Guest of Honour at the occasion. Then after this, the children will go on a sight seeing of the ancient city.
The London segment of the show would hold on July 20. Here, Soyinka will be in attendance with children in a warm and friendly atmosphere. Also a number of selected youth achievers would be identified and asked to address their fellow children during the ceremony. “At that occasion, children would mount the rostrum to speak their minds to themselves and their peers.
They would speak like adults and explain what our nation should look like in the next 20 years. In short, they would set today’s agenda for their country and at the same time, guide the future.
“They would bring the future to the present and address development issues such as lack of power supply, falling standards of education, insecurity, overpopulation, lack of accommodation, unemployment, bad governance and poor economy,” Kareem remarked.
WS started with WS76 (Preemptive Seven) in 2010, featuring a troupe of American actors and theatre scholars on a tour of the Caribbean and over five states in Nigeria including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. In 2011, the Project WS77 had the theme “I Love My Country”; hosting symbolically 77 senior secondary school students from across the federation and the Diaspora. The children competed in an essay competition and also took part in the cultural exchange programme.
They were also opportune to share moments with the Nobel Laureate in a mentoring session at his home in Abeokuta, Ogun State. Project WS78 held last year with a major celebration of the essence of the artiste in the society using Wole Soyinka as reference point.
With the theme, “The Mind of a Patriot”, the project premised on how to instill a sense of patriotism in the hearts of the young ones. 80th birthday According to Lillian Aluko, all cultural and educational presentations have been designed to herald the 2014 edition that would mark the 80th birthday anniversary in honour of Soyinka.
“Our main goal in the Open Door Series is to combat fear, violence and its contingent reactions through the use of education, arts and culture.
We are starting with the youths (secondary school level) because we believe that they can still be positively influenced and molded into the leaders of tomorrow that we desire them to be,” she stated. For Kareem, however, sponsorship has always been a big challenge for the project. “In the midst of such challenges, we have been variously blessed with a few but highly supportive sponsors/partners.
This year again, some of these supportive sponsors have shown us love. They have indicated interest in joining hands with The Open Door Series Project WS79 to spread the word that global diplomacy can be achieved through arts and culture. These sponsors include the Government of Ogun State led by His Excellency, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and Government of Ondo State led by His Excellency, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko,” he concluded.