The Open Door Series Project WS is an International Cultural Exchange Program 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, the ICE seeks to foster unity among mankind regardless of nationality, ethnicity and religion.
Our 1st edition premiered 13th July 2010 on the 76th birthday of Professor Wole Soyinka and had 76 stars of stage and screen walk the red carpet at Muson center in his honor.
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”. With various prizes at stake including an all-expenses paid trip to London which was won by Gbenga Adeniji (a journalist with Punch newspapers), the essay competitions were fun for all the participants.
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 this year took us 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, the essay competition took a different form as only secondary school students were allowed to compete. Aaliyah Ibrahim from Zamani College Kaduna emerged victorious and smiled home with a scholarship worth N250,000, a laptop computer and a desk top computer for her school.
2012 was a breakthrough year for us as we had our first platinum sponsor in the Ogun State government of Senator Ibikunle Amosun. Our dear Ondo State government ably led by the Iroko, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, faithfully continued their friendship and support by again giving us substantial sponsorship. Ghana, Nigeria and a London euphorically celebrating the 32nd Olympiad were the tour destinations. The theme “The mind of a Patriot “ resonated in the play “Home” by Samm Art Williams directed by Co-Executive Producer Segun Ojewuyi, which we took on tour. Prof. Robert Fox of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale delivered the advocacy lecture with the title “From Tigritude to transcendence; The Conscience and conscientiousness of Wole Soyinka”. Sopuruchi Mgbeahurike of Graceland international secondary school, Port Harcourt won the WS essay trophy and like Aaliyah before her, carted away a scholarship, laptop and desktop. WS78 came to an end with an exciting 2 day event in London with dance workshops, lectures and performances.
2013 was the start of the countdown to the 80th year mark. While working on the grandiose dreams of the duo Teju Kareem and Segun Ojewuyi to stage 80 plays across the globe for Kongi’s 80th birthday, WS79 took place as usual in Lagos where the students wrote the essay on the 13th of July under the watchful eyes of the judges led by Dr. Razinat Mohammed. The “Do your own thing” at Freedom park featuring over 600 students from about 20 schools based in Lagos in addition to the 79 essay finalists who came from all over the Country also took place on the 13th. The theme for the year was “Memoirs for the Future”.
On the 14th, the 79 essay finalists, the judges and officials of the ICE project accompanied by teachers, parents and officials of some State Ministries of Education all moved in convoy to the office of the Ogun State Governor where the result of the essay competition was announced and prizes presented by the Governor. From there, the convoy moved to the Ijegba estate Country home of Prof. Soyinka where the Nobel Laureate waited as usual to receive the finalists. The winner presented the trophy to him, the students and officials availed themselves of the graciously offered photo opportunity and finally, the students got the most important gift of all – a question and answer session with the great man. For a priceless 2 hours, the youths threw all manner of questions and he graciously answered every one. Nothing was out of bounds to his young guests. The action filled day was far from over. From Ijegba estate, the convoy moved to the Ogun State cultural center. They were joined by 1000 Ogun State students colorfully clad in the State’s traditional fabric – adire, a gift from the Project WS79 organizers’. The youths had lunch and bonded with each other in the spirit of cultural exchange. Thereafter, Ogun State First Lady the beautiful Mrs Olufunsho Amosun accompanied by the state Commissioner for Health and son of the Nobel Laureate Dr. Olaokun Soyinka arrived. The first lady mentored the youths, there were performances of poetry, spoken words and dances by the students and then the distinguished hosts took photos with the very excited students.
15th July, the group in convoy again set off for Osun State. On arrival, we were directed straight to the Centre for Black Heritage where we were received by the deputy governor Otunba Mrs Grace Laoye Tomori and the first Lady Mrs. Sherifat Aregbesola. After an exciting time in Osun, the Nigerian leg of Project WS79 came to an end with the 79 essay finalists departing for their homes. The tour train continued to London where Prof. Wole Soyinka, Mrs. Foluke Soyinka and Mrs Olufunsho Amosun joined several other dignitaries at the public presentation of “Memoirs for the Future” a compilation of essays from the WS essay competition over the years. That done, there was a youth summit after which the venerable Nobel Laureate took the hot seat and answered questions from adults and youngsters.
As our vision for the project states, “we wish to engrave in the hearts of the youth the uncommon view that education, art and culture are authentic panaceas to fear, violence and their resultant erosion of individual will and self-actualization”. The youth hold the key to change and prosperity in Nigeria and the world. It is our duty to engage them and ensure their mindset and priorities are in the direction of progress for the motherland and humanity.
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