Sculpture Stephen Okeke has created several busts of key figures of Belizean culture including the Right Honorable George Price, which sits at the George Price Center in Belmopan, the father of the nation Phillip Goldson, which sits at the entrance of the Phillip Goldson Highway in Belize City and the Father of the Belize Labour Movement Antonio Soberanis, which sits at the Battlefield Park in Belize City. But one particular bust that has caused him many strife and is about to cost him his entire house is the TV Ramos Bust.
“I took loans, I took very big loans, very high interest loans to create this thing and they have no problem. As long as I had the sculpture in my studio, they had no problem with that because of the value of it. I could sell it to the Dangriga people or I can sell it to somebody else. As soon as it left on credit and the payment is not being done as signed on the document. These people refuse to be compassionate. They refuse to listen to my outcry. I don’t want to negotiate wit them, I don’t know what to tell them anymore that I haven’t told them. Thanks to the people of Dangriga, thanks to the Garifuna community, I am having my studio up for action on Saturday. I am inviting those who are interested to come and bid on Saturday for the studio where I created even the Statue of Liberty of Dangriga, the Drums of My Father and all the Statues in Belize. Thanks to them. I am inviting my Chinese- Belizean brothers, who will eventually buy if anybody should buy, to come out on Saturday and bid. My studio is up for action thanks to the Garifuna people.”
Okeke made a loan with the First Caribbean Bank to help him finance the TV Ramos Bust project, which was unveiled in Dangriga on the 19th of November last year. Due to nonpayment, however, Okeke says he is now 15 thousand dollars in arrears with the bank, that’s less than half of what he is owed by the TV Ramos Foundation for the TV Ramos bust. And while Dangriga Area Representative Ivan Ramos, the grandson of TV Ramos, was the one that signed the agreement to pay him in monthly installments, Okeke says he cannot take court action against Ivan Ramos because the bust belongs to the people of Dangriga and not to one particular person.
“TV Ramos does not belong to Ivan Ramos, I don’t know how to explain it again. TV Ramos is a celebrated Garifuna ancestor. They should have done that many years ago, not the dummy they have in Dangriga as representing TV Ramos. Those who keep asking ‘why should I not take Ivan Ramos to court? ‘ I am too embarrassed to respond to them anymore. They should know better. If they don’t, I don’t think I want to educate them on that anymore. There is a signed document. Somebody has to sign, the whole committee does not have to sign. Dangriga’s Ivan Ramos is the sitting Representative for Dangagria in the House. Ivan Ramos is a Garifuna Elder. Somebody has to sign. All those who celebrated, do they like it? Yes they like it. What is the problem is that they can’t cost them five dollars, it can’t cost them one dollar. T V Ramos fought on their behalf to give them a name. It is because of TV Ramos we celebrate Garifuna Settlement Day. It is because of TV Ramos that Garifuna have a day for themselves in Belize. The fight that he had fought on their behalf it can’t cost them five dollars to build something to his memory?”
If Okeke does not manage to pay the 15 thousand dollars to the bank his entire property he says, will be auctioned on Saturday May 16th