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From Lagos To Abeokuta, 80 Birthday Cheers For Wole Soyinka

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From Lagos To Abeokuta, 80 Birthday Cheers For Wole Soyinka



Soyinka2Today Sunday July 13, 2014 the ancient town of Abeokuta is alive to the rhythm of the birthday song for their illustrious son, Wole Soyinka. For Kongi, the entire Egbaland stood still for a week long birthday celebration which culminates into a month celebration taking place in different parts of the country.

Earlier that Sunday morning a birthday lecture delivered by Abiola Irele, a professor of French Linguistics and Literature titled: ‘Wole Soyinka and the moral burden of literature’ was organised by the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism.  In the lecture, Irele, who has been a critic and scholar of Soyinka’s works shared his understanding of Soyinka as student at the University College Ibadan.

“The quintessential Soyinka that is being celebrated globally,” says Irele, “is a product of ceaseless hard work and commitment to scholarship.”

Jeffrey Hawkins, the U.S. Consular-General in Nigeria describes Soyinka as a writer who had the moral burden to transform his society. “This he executed excellently,”says Hawkins, “in many of his works especially the novels: The Interpreter and The Man Died.”

Dan Izevbaye, literary critic in his comment  said Soyinka’s works are not elitist as claimed by some readers of his works.

“Soyinka sees literature beyond pleasure,” argues Izevbaye, “if his language is considered elitist (as is commonly said) it means more literature teachers need further education.”

Izevbaye suggests ways to make Soyinka’s works more reachable in schools. Some of his suggestions include staging Soyinka’s plays in schools and the further training of the language of literature in English to teachers.

Later on Sunday evening at Soyinka’s country home at Forest Lodge in Abeokuta, the stage was set live with by Crown Troupe with a performance of  ‘A Dance of the Forests,’ written by Soyinka.

The forest is made colourful with the props, lightening and costumes of the casts, each taking up their roles and putting in themselves into the drama, making it an interesting piece for everyone. The customs, songs and dance communicated the culture of the Yorubas. For many viewers, it is an opportunity to have a different interpretation of ‘A Dance of the Forests’.

The 203 casts fits into their roles perfectly as the play portrays the themes truth, recompense, equity, justice and reconciliation. The play was directed by Tunde Awosanmi, choreographed by Peter Badejo, with Teju Kareem taking the role of the Executive producer and Designer.

Ibikunle Amosun, governor of Ogun State describes the drama as awesome, adding that this can only happen in Ogun state, where so much is done to truly portray the culture of the state.

“I kept asking myself again and again how they have put this play together because I don’t know when last I saw this array of colours put together. I must say I am very proud of all those that have put this play together,” he says.

He noted that the play shows the prowess of literature, adding that if he knew the play was going to be as captivating as this, he wouldSoyinka3 have put in more attention than he did and this is part of the efforts of Ogun state and the WS project to bring back theatre in Ogun State.

“With what we have demonstrated tonight, we are all encouraged and we know theatre will be made more attractive for the state,” Amosun adds.

Part of the activities of celebrating Soyinka includes the Live Annual Essay competition of the WS project, with pertinent topics thrown open to senior secondary school students all over Nigeria and the diaspora.

The winner of the essay competition was Akpan Ewongobong Enefiok from Top Faith International School, Akwaibom. The first runner up was Akinrimisi Taiwo Omolayo from Imade College, Owo, Ondo state and the second runner up was Opatola Peter from Lord’s Secondary School, Ilora, Oyo State. The winners got cash scholarships and laptop computers, while their schools were given desk top computers.

Olufunso Amosun, First Lady, Ogun State who spoke on the topic ‘Education, a Pathway to Freedom and Future noted empowers on to know the way forward, assist in reducing poverty and brings about technological development and population enhancement.

She encouraged the students to have an additional form of education, which are the vocational skills adding that with hard work, determination and perseverance there will be no limit to what they can do.

Another major event is the ‘Dialogue through Spoken Word,’ a poetry event that paraded 80 poets on stage in the course of three days with the theme, ‘Freedom of Creative.’ International renowned masters of the genre such as Mutabaruka from Jamaica and Javon Johnson from United States amongst others participated in the poetry. Also Akeem Lasisi, famous performance poet and journalist performed a track from his recently released album, ‘Ori Agbe’ in honour of Soyinka.

The celebration this year is indeed a very remarkable one to his lovers, contemporaries, friends, relatives, family, but most especially to him as he revealed that as part of the ways to celebrate his birthday this year was to think about the menace happening in the society especially as it concerns the Chibok girls and proffer solutions to them.

In addressing the problem, he is soliciting for volunteers, which will be international in nature with an aim to bring about unity and collaboration to ensure the Chibok girls are brought back alive.

According to Soyinka, “This initiative has to have a multidimensional approach and it is essential for volunteers to be given civil defense training and will be associated with prominent people in the society so as to make it more visible.”

He described the activities of the WS80 International Cultural Exchange Project as a commendable one and a message to the entire world not to mess up with education as it continues to be the only part way to freedom.

“I don’t consider myself to be a nationalist or a patriot but I just believe in human community and humanity. I believe issues like justice, fair play and equal opportunities belong to every human being and as such, they should not be denied,” he reiterated.

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