Okeke Blasts "Mayan" Roundabout Sculpture
Last week we spoke to the mayor about the two new figures being installed on roundabouts at the Marine Parade and Eve street roundabouts. Previously, these roundabouts had walled flower beds and the marine parade one had a pair of cannons.
But that one will now have a replica of a Mayan temple - which has incensed Stephen Okeke - himself a former sculptor.
Today he called the press to the area to tell us exactly why he says the new figures have to be removed:..
"And what we have here is said to be a mini Mayan temple and it's absurd that a wonderful structure that was here already, which is reflective and sensitive of the culture of Belize, with the canons and the flowers a beautiful setup, was dismantled for whatever they are building here. Interestingly we don't even know what is going to come here, there is no artistic impression of what is going to be here, these was no planning it's just haphazard as the other roundabouts have been and whenever they arrive at something, they arrive at something and we have to take it."
"If they are so concern about representing the Mayan culture, the Mayan temple, we already have the Central Bank which is the biggest handmade, recently handmade Mayan structure. We have people who were here as the original people of Belize City, the Creole people, it's not being racial or prejudicial, I am mostly a new Belizean, but you have the Creole people and there are other very significant Belizean who have done excellent in Belize and in Belize City especially. If you want to represent something it should reflect that sentiment."
"We can't afford to be keep isolating the original people of Belize City because Belize City does not belong to everybody. We should respect that and anything that is done in this area should reflect that. You can't just take 2 priceless piece of real-estate and jumble it up, something is not right somewhere and so this thing that is being built here even the arrangement itself, is such a contradiction. What are the meaning of the Mayan temples got to do with the canons and the battle of Saint Georges Caye? History doesn't seem to agree with that. Take back the blocks and put up whatever was there, in fact if what was there was so recklessly and fast removed, what will it take to remove what is here right now? Just 2 hours maximum, take it back. The city residents don't want it. It doesn't reflect our cultural sensitivities, and of course you should give an artist impression. Let us know, it is a modern world, if you don't have you CAD program you can do it by hand, give us an impression let's see a level of planning and articulation, give us an impression of what you are going to do and let us see contributions and impute from the city residents. We have very beautiful artist in Belize City and we can do better and we deserve better."
"When somebody comes around here, we call it public visual dialog, once they look at it they should be able to tell you, they should be able to tell you know what, and it's saying that the original people of Belize City were Mayans. Is that what we want to say? It says that the Mayans also fought in the battle of St. George's Caye because of the canons. It just talks about you that are what they call public visual dialog, as you look at the structure, it's talking to you, and you're talking to it, without any words being said. That's what you are looking at out there, does it reflect us?"
"How do you answer the criticism that you want to run for mayor independently and this you are just using this, it's just opportunism on your part to us this as a platform for you campaign of good governance or whatever you are projecting?"
"First of all I want you ask you to discourage anybody who makes such statements, because it is for fear or being label political or being colored partisan that important Belizeans, intelligent Belizeans who could do very well are hiding away because they are afraid of being ostracized by the government or whoever."
"However, when there were making the sculpture at the Western Highway, Central American Boulevard, which I know you had artistic aesthetic objections to, you didn't have a press conference, because at the time you won't running for Mayor."
"Well, there are a lot of thing I have been dealing with in Belize City, for example...."
"But answer the specific question Stephen, I am not asking about a lot of things I am asking about an isolate event."
"I am being very clear that I have tried to consult the Mayor on this. Regarding the one on the Central American Boulevard, is that right? It was set up it wasn't built it was setup before we knew about it, this is still in process and we are saying the process can be aborted today."
A late evening, three-page press release from the Mayor's office offers a staunch defence of the Hans And Nandini Bhojwani Foundation which has sponsored the design and construction of these and other roundabouts in the city.
It says the monuments are designed to commemorate Belize's 30tyh. Anniversary of Independence. The write-up says that one on Eve street is inspired by The Gambia in Western Africa and will signify Education, environment, Energy and Employment.
That, the designer tells will be finished by tomorrow.
The other one, the big one on Marine Parade is supposed to depict, quote, "growth of our nation and will be fully surrounded with aesthetically pleasing flower plants," end quote.
The write-up says it is inspired by Mayan architecture but we'll note that it doesn't resemble any temple we've ever seen n Belize; in fact it looks most like Tikal, which is in Guatemala! Not quite sure how that fits into the 30 years of independence picture, but the designer says it will be finished by next week.
The release says that despite detractors like Okeke, the Hans and Nadini Bhojwani foundation is resolved to continue with the project for the residents of Belize City.