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10/6/2005

Giant mahogany Coke bottle returns to Belize

Filed under: belize — admin @ 7:01 am

It may be one of the most recognizable shapes on the planet… and whether or not you’re a fan of Coca-Cola or the triumph of global capitalism, there’s no denying that Belize’s artistic rendering of the ubiquitous coke bottle is a masterpiece. Today I was in Orange Walk for its homecoming.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting:
Standing four feet tall, the solid mahogany Coca Cola bottle is estimated to weigh more than five hundred pounds. In 1996, four Belizean artisans laboured more than eight weeks to create this unusual work of art. Robert Westby sculpted the national symbols and the jaguar, Federico Reyes carved the map of Belize, and Ramon Espat was responsible for the painting. But it was Carmelo Teck who was charged with shaping the giant coke out of single block of hardwood.

Carmelo Teck, Bottle Carver:
“Inna wah way it’s not the biggest, but it was the most complicated one because we needed to shape it the way they want it. I couldn’t find any way how fu do it so I try invent this calliper to get the measurements and sizes because it had to be accurate.”

Robert Westby, Animal Carver:
“It wasn’t difficult for me because I had a lot of training in wood carving. I was also a student of George Gabb and I’ve been doing it for years, almost thirty years now… The team that, me Mr. Espat, Mr. Teck, and Mr. Reyes–he’s not here—but it was a very confident and sure that it would work out right.”

The Coca Cola Company commissioned the piece nine years ago for the exhibition “Salute to Folk Art” displayed during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta Georgia.

David Craig, Merchandizing Mgr., Bowen & Bowen:
“They wanted to highlight the folk art of all the countries of the world and to create an exhibition so that the many people and athletes coming to Atlanta would be able to see it.”

“Folk art is a very special art. It’s art that really you don’t get any formal training for…it just springs forth from the creative mind and you use indigenous materials. Our artists have been doing it for many, many, years probably without recognition. We are just selling off these pieces.”

Fifty-three countries submitted entries but only a select few were chosen to participate in a two year European tour. Of course, the Belizean piece made the cut and local officials thought their contribution had been lost to the art world.

David Craig:
“We signed off on the bottle a long time ago. We didn’t believe that we would get it back, but we kept asking, asking and we finally have it back here because we want to show it to Belizeans. We want people to enjoy what the many people from all over the world that visited Atlanta and Europe enjoyed.”

Having returned to its roots in Orange Walk, the bottle will be hosted at the Banquitas House of Culture. But a national tour is already in the planning stages.

Joe Loskot, Coke Bottle Project Manager:
“Belize has a considerable amount of talent and we are now putting our talents to use and to show the world that we do have good craftsmen in Belize… It shows that we can have diverse talents all in one. We can amalgamate them and we can put out something that Belize can be proud of.”

Coca-Cola originally paid Loskot’s company twenty-five thousand dollars for the piece. According to Bowen and Bowen, the exhibition is in collaboration with the Image Factory and the National Institute of Culture and History.

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