Paris hosts celebrations for Wole Soyinka’s 90th birthday

Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka’s 90th birthday festivities continued in France on June 9, 2024, with Africa I.D.E.N.T.I.T.Y (AI) “Poetry Meets Music” at the Eiffel Tower in Paris. This event is part of the global celebration for the acclaimed writer, which featured performances by Afropop star Jemiriye and the Vision of the Child (VoTC) prodigy Princess Marinay.

Following the launch of the Europe Roadshow in Florence, Italy, on June 6, 2024, the Paris event formed part of a wider programme honouring Soyinka’s legacy. The 15th edition of the annual Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange (WSICE) celebrates Soyinka’s profound impact on literature, culture, and human rights. The VoTC, initiated under Soyinka’s guidance in 2012, has been pivotal in fostering creativity and social transformation among young people.

The extraordinary event, a continuation of the ambitious Europe Roadshows of the celebration which began June 6, 2024 in Florence, Italy, is part of the elaborate programme designed to 

commemorate the 15th edition of the annual Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange (WSICE) in honour of the laureate’s arrival on the nonagenarian rung of his illustrious life, and career as a global cultural icon and humanist.

The Africa I.D.E.N.T.I.T.Y project, an initiative of the Vision of The Child (VoTC), celebrates the enduring legacy of Soyinka, whose profound influence on literature, culture, and civil/human rights is globally recognised. Established in 2012 under Soyinka’s visionary leadership, VoTC has fostered creativity, education, and social transformation in, and among thousands of young minds.

Africa I.D.E.N.T.I.T.Y represents Integrity, Diversity, Economic Development, Nationhood, Trade, Innovation, Talent, and Youthfulness, according to the WSICE2024/WS90 Project Director, Foluke Michael.

After its European tour, the AI will also berth in London where it will join the WSICE main programme outlines at The Africa Centre. Here it will be accompanied by other exhibitions including: WS: A Life in Full, showing historical images and portraits of Soyinka over the ages; NINE Seasons of KONGI – paintings and drawings inspired by the celebrant’s life and career. There will also be a display of rare copies of Onitsha Market Literature, which is a passion collection project of Soyinka. 

Comprising two components: “Enduring Legacy: The Africa Spirit” (exhibition) and “The NINE Seasons of KONGI (Wole Soyinka),” the AI is a unique platform showcasing African values through the eyes of its youth and entrepreneurs. 

“This award-winning project aims to promote African values and trade, inspired by VoTC’s themes of good governance, democracy, and a culture of integrity,” added Foluke Michael.

She continued, “The Enduring Legacy exhibition highlights Soyinka’s contributions that transcend borders, addressing universal themes of freedom, resilience, and identity. The NINE Seasons of KONGI (Wole Soyinka) honours his legacy through 90 poetic performances and cultural events across nine countries: Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and the Republic of Benin. The poetic performances will continue across selected locations in Nigeria at the end of June.

“Over the last 72 hours, poets Princess Marinay and 10-year-old Mofifunoluwa Atilola have performed 12 selected poems of Wole Soyinka before live audiences at historic sites in Florence, including Piazza Del Duomo, Palazzo Medici Riccardi, and Academia Galleria. The roadshow continued in the Tuscany region of Italy on June 8, spanning Siena, Panzano, and Greve in Chianti.” 

On June 13, marking a 30-day countdown to Soyinka’s 90th birthday, a live painting event will be held in Florence by the master artist and culture administrator, Tola Wewe and multi-talented Princess Marinay. The duo will depict the legacy of Wole Soyinka by reimagining Michelangelo. This will be followed by the VoTC Creative Hub event in Nigeria later in June and a final exhibition in Lagos and London in July. The climax will be an auction and Africa trade session in August 2024.

“Beyond celebrating Prof. Soyinka’s birthday, “African I-D-E-N-T-I-T-Y” aims to launch a virtual exhibition and Solution17 Creative Academy, nurturing exceptional talents and creativity towards Africa’s growth, development, and prosperity,” stated Michael, who can be contacted at or +234 8096108715, website:}

The 2024 Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange, WSICE programme is slated to run from July 11 through July 27 with events spanning Lagos, Abeokuta, London, and other cities across the continent and in the West. 

Lagos & Abeokuta: The main event will run July 11-16 starting with a special edition of the  annual Advocacy Session. Collaboratively anchored with the Nigeria Academy of Letters, NAL, the Session designed as a symposium will hold at the University of Lagos on the theme is ENI-OGUN: An Enduring Legacy and will feature contributions by top-notch resource persons from the academia as well as professionals in various disciplines of the arts.  The Abeokuta leg will also feature the Youth Session, comprising Essay writing competition and Do-Your-Own-Things at the WSICE headquarters in Ijegba (located in the vicinity of Soyinka’s forested Autonomous Republic of Ijegba, A.R.I. residence in Idi Aba Hosing Estate), and exhibition at the WSICE Gallery at Omida Market, Abeokuta. There will also be presentations of drama in Lagos including Cash Ayodele’s ENI-OGUN (Man of War) and Soyinka’s alll-time classic, The Lion and the Jewel by the Live Theatre Lagos. Other activities include premiere of the film, The Man Died, a feature film inspired by Soyinka’s prison memoirs of same title, directed by Awam Amkpa and produced by Zuri24 Media. 

In London, the WSICE in partnership with The Africa Centre presents a 10-day (July 19-27) cultural extravaganza that would feature, exhibitions, conferences, film screenings, workshops for students and youths, and live drama, music and poetry performances, climaxing with the premiere of the film The Man Died, which will be graced by the Nobel laureate himself, with members of his family, friends and associates from around the world.

“Specifically, the WS90/WSICE2024 theme is “E.N.I.O.G.U.N – Engaging National Interest on Good Governance, Understanding and Nation-Building” — a summation of the over seven decades commitment and struggles of Soyinka as a nationalist, patriot, and humanist — as can be gleaned from his voluptuous creative works and consistent public engagement,” stated Dr Teju Kareem, the Executive Producer of WSICE.

Dr Kareem added: “In particular, the theme E.N.I.O.G.U.N is to sum up Soyinka’s life-long commitment to the cause of nation building through his relentless fight for the national interest that would ensure good governance for the wellbeing of the general citizenry. While the theme domiciles appreciation of Soyinka’s commitment to his birth country, Nigeria, it is by extension an appreciation of his global service to humanity in general, which has seen him advocating for justice, freedom and respect for the rights and freedom of citizens all over the world. The theme will be the focus of all the programme items of the edition.” NB: Full profile/programme available at


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