Thursday, August 22, 2013

Osun Osogbo: Handshake across the sea

During her first year in the graduate school at the Yale University,
US, Sheriden Booker, an African American, had a Yoruba professor, as
one of her lecturers. On walking into his class the first day, a
naming ceremony instinct - Africans, especially the Yoruba, are
neverdevoid of this - gripped the lecturer. He told Booker, "I have a
name for you: Wuraola!"
With the appellation meaning gold and wealth, the lady's beauty
musthave inspired the teacher to give her Wuraola - or Wura, for
short, a name that is also in the realm of Iyunade. At first, Booker
could not appreciate the import of the tag. But apart from the fact
that some folks started calling her so, her interest in Yoruba
culture, which latergrew as she plunged into academic and geographical
romance with Nigeria, later made her to accept it with passion.
That is why when the lady that began her career in the culture
industries at the Walt Disney Television Production Studios in
Burbank, California, and who has since 2005 worked for the Brooklyn
Academy of Music, among other similar outfits, decided to form a
company, she could not resist calling it WURArts Service &
Productions. According to her, the organisation is an independent
artsconsulting and production outfit dedicated to the marriage of
creative thought and strategic growth.
Booker, with a Ph.D. from Yale, and a Professional Certificate in Arts
Administration from New York University, is one of the experts and
investors that the Osun State Government assembled from the United
States for a Trade, Investment and Culture Conference, which held
between Tuesday and Thursday in Osogbo. An extension of the Osun
Osogbo Festival, which peaks today (Friday) at the state capital, the
conference was organised by the Office of Economic Development and
Partnership, which has Dr. Charles Akinola as the director-general.
Among the about 20 experts on the mission are a professor of
photography and photojournalism, School of Communication at Point Park
University, Christopher Rolinson; President/CEO, Afrika Yetu, Elie
Kihonia, who is also the founder of Afrika Yetu and UMOJA African Arts
Company; President/CEO, Did Associates, Dinae Daniels, Head of
Software Engineering Institute, Carnegie Melon University, Philip
Miller; the Executive Director of CEED, a non-governmental
organisation, Rufus Idris; and, President, Monarch Environmental Inc.,
Robert Sharder. While they engaged entrepreneurs and artists drawn
from various parts of the state in conversations that could lead into
partnerships, a major aspect of the conference was a Culture
Roundtable, where the international resource persons mated ideas with
several cultural icons, largely of Osun descent.
These include celebrated batik artist and designer, Nike Okundaye;
beadwork and mosaic artist, Jimoh Ibraimoh; music and visual artist,
Muraino Oyelami; a sculptor, Kasali Akangbe-Ogun, renowned
traditionalist and Ifa poet, Yemi Elebuibon; international artist and
dancer, Peter Badejo (OBE).
In the lecture series at the programme held at the International
Centre for Culture and Understanding, the Chief Executive Officer and
Creative Director, My World of Bags, Mr. Femi Olayebi, spoke
on'Product Development and the Tourism Economy', while the Deputy
Director, British Council, Ojoma Ochai, spoke on 'Arts, Culture and
Tourism in the Creative Economy'. On her part, Booker spoke on 'Cross
Cultural Exchange in the Osun Tourism Economy and Partnerships in the
Tourism Economy of the State of Osun. The Festival consultant, Tope
Babayemi, who is also the CEO of Different Aesthetics Arts and Culture
Management, spoke on How a Strong Local Culture and Creativity can
Deliver Sustainable Cultural Tourism.
But part of the significance of the conference is that it brought
other big players in the art, culture and entertainment industry into
the fold. Among them were Mr. Ben Tomoloju, seasoned producer Laolu
Akins; and Mr. Ololade Olaopa, who coordinated theExperience
Osunexhibition aspect of it.
At the opening ceremony that featured performances and
motivationaltalks, the State Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, noted
that the conference aimed at providing an opportunity for relevant
partners and stakeholders to interact, in order to come up with
innovative solutions that would increase investment efforts and create
sustainable partnerships that would enrich the lives of Osun people.
Noting that it came at an appropriate time, Aregbesola, who was hailed
by Booker for his interest in the culture sector, added that Osun is a
treasured cultural haven, with one of its most significant landmarks
being the existence of Ile-Ife, described as the cradle of the Yoruba
race there.
He said, "The State of Osun occupies a central place in Nigeria's
cultural tourism map. Besides Ife, there are numerous centres of
cultural and tourism significance spread all over the state. More than
60 tourist sites are known to exist here in Osun, with the Osun grove
having acquired a UNESCO World Heritage Site status."
Both Akinola and the Chairman of the State Tourism Board, Mr. Abimbola
Daniyan, an engineer, as well as the Commissioner for Commerce,
Co-operatives and Empowerment, Mr. Ismaila Jayeoba-Alagbada, stressed
that the conference would strengthen investment efforts and create a
platform for high level business networking and business to business
matchmaking opportunities.
Akinola said, "We plan to take advantage of the large number of
visitors during the annual Osun Osogbo Festival to make the trade
mission an annual event."

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