Today we spoke to Stephen Okeke, creator of the bust of Thomas Vincent Ramos and many other sculptures of national heroes and related monuments. Okeke says he has been unable to make contact with the Thomas Vincent Ramos Foundation, which took possession of the bust from him last November in time for Garifuna Settlement Day celebrations. He says he has only received $5,000 of the total $35,000 which he is owed and the agreement he signed with Dangriga area representative Ivan Ramos has not been kept to.
Stephen Okeke – Sculptor
“The T.V Ramos bust right now is in Dangriga. It’s in the ownership of the Garifuna people and it was welcomed with a lot of pump, a lot of second chances and I am very happy they have it there. Right now, it is very difficult to get payment. My real problem right now is that I have some very serious health problem and I need some money to make payments for some of the medical bills. I am asking some of the Belizean people to reach out to me to make those payments. Even if these contributions come out of the payment of the T.V Ramos sculpture. I want the Belizean people to look a little away from just the Garifuna people because T.V Ramosbelongs to all Belizeans. He is one of the only two Belizeans being celebrated, him an George Price, and I made those two busts.
The situation is urgent for Okeke, who is now suffering from ulcerative colitis, a chronic, inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation in the digestive tract, for which he needs surgery. He apologized today for any offense he caused in his work but said his health is the overriding issue now.
“I also wnt to appeal to people, the people who are offended by the way I do things or the structures I’ve made, or the funds that I’ve made from the structures or how I made them. I want to appeal to all of them that I am sorry to everybody, I apologise to everybody. I promise I will not be doing sculptures anymore because I don’t want to keep doing things that offends people. I am very sorry. I just want folks to reach out to me so that I will be able to pay off these medical bills and take care of my health
“How much have you received so far and is there any particular reason you’re unable to get the rest as we speak?”
“Well, I’ve been able to speak out to people, and so far, they have been a number of pledges but also , people are looking for a form where they can be able to make the right contribution. So far, we’ve had people pledge up to $1,000 and redeemed up to $500 already. But I am appealing to fokes, reach out to me so that I am able to meet up with these bills.”
“How much have you received from the processed from the sale of bust?”
“Only $5,000, they have $30,000 balance. Even with the payment plan we have, they have arrears of about $12,000. So far, they haven’t been making payments accorded to the payment plans we have.”
Okeke did note some success in that tourists and Belizeans have the physical evidence of his work of T.V. Ramos, Philip Goldson, George Price and Antonio Soberanis as living testaments of Belize’s history and their individual contributions to the nation. Nonetheless, he says that for the sake of his health he cannot continue as he is now doing. Reached for comment this evening, Hon. Ramos asked us to call him back next week Tuesday, when he said he would be better able to speak about the situation.