Belize City Mayor Darrell Bradley announced Wednesday that the Belize City Council has finalized negotiations with sculptor Stephen Okeke on the purchase of his definitive bust of Belize’s legendary labor leader Antonio Soberanis.
Mayor Bradley said that the bust would be purchased by the city for $25,000, none of which will come from the city’s coffers. The mayor said that the money to purchase the bust was donated by people who had been urging the City Council to buy it.
The Antonio Soberanis bust will be erected in the newly remodelled Battlefield Park, which was set to be opened on Thursday, August 29, but City Hall has delayed the opening of the park to September 19, in order to install the major art work.
According to Mayor Bradley, the agreement with sculptor Okeke would be finalized on Friday, September 6.
Okeke’s line of public art includes the “Drums of My Father,” which adorns the entrance to Dangriga Town and the busts of two of Belize’s national heroes, Rt. Hon. George Price, and Hon. Phillip Goldson.
Asked how he came to do the Sobaranis bust, which members of Soberanis’ family agrees accurately depicts their relative’s likeness, Okeke replied, “It was a difficult challenge.”
He said that unlike the bust of Price, who he was able to photograph, because Price was still alive when he started that project, Soberanis posed a different problem, because there were no good photographs of him available—not even from family members.
“It took a lot of time to find a very good picture of Soberanis. There was none in the archives. So, for several years I was trying to find a good photograph of him,” said Okeke.
Okeke said that eventually he found a photograph through searching on the Internet.
“Luckily for me, somebody told me that his son is still alive and I got a phone number for him and he was able to confirm that the picture I had gotten off the internet is that of his father.”
“When Soberanis’ son saw the sculpture of his father, he was ecstatic, that I had taken time out to do a bust of his father without anyone asking me,” said Okeke.
Okeke said that he had originally set out to do some of Belize’s historical personality in art form, but now he has doubts if he will continue with that quest.
“If you want to live in the community, you have to listen to the voice of people.”
He described some of the racial slurs that were posted about him in the social media as “painful”.