General — 08 March 2007 — by Adele Ramos
Hundreds of Belizeans, young and old, turned out this afternoon at the Bliss Center for the Performing Arts to pay their last respects to George Seymour Gabb, a legendary Belizean who has left so much for posterity – a priceless heritage – in the world of art.
Mr. Gabb died nine days after celebrating his 79th birthday, and as his cousin, Dean Lindo, put it, all he did over his nearly 80 years of existence could not have been chronicled in today’s short ceremony.
Lindo called Gabb the sculptor of sculptors, “precocious” from youth to old age, and a benefactor of this nation who has left “a wonderful legacy behind him.”
George Gabb could have a list of endless titles behind his name, but the ones that were most often repeated were carver, sculptor, painter, poet, philosopher, teacher, playwright, culinary artist, and most of all, a dearly loved friend.
Lindo said, “Were it not for [George Gabb’s] particular love and for patriotism of country and of the fellowmen, he could have earned a great fortune in yonder land.”
Instead, Gabb dedicated his life to Belize.
“George is our own Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Picasso; our own Thomas Sullivan; our own Samuel Haynes, our own Chuchin Acosta and the list goes on,” Lindo added.
He said that his cousin was always seeking for perfection in his work – masterpieces that have found resting places in some of the most affluent homes in Belize and other parts of the world.
Silvana Woods, a long time friend and admirer of George Gabb, puts him on par with the national symbols of Belize.
She recalls their earliest encounters in 1995, when she came to know him as Belize’s premier sculptor: “From the moment that George Gabb got me to begin my quest, to hunt with hunger for that spot – that place, where nothing is of value but everything is priceless – from that moment, I have been a better person, a more focused person, a person who reflects, a person who likes herself. That is what reading George Gabb would do to you.”
As an advocate of the use of Kriol as a language, Woods lauded Gabb for insisting on publishing his proverbs in Standard Kriol, as well as his stance that we must keep creating new proverbs to suit these new times.
Woods said that Gabb’s philosophy is that we were all fashioned to create, and he urged people to “dance with the beat of purpose forever.”
“I am convinced that it was a call from the soul that made him insist on giving respect to the Kriol language in ensuring that it was written in – at the time – the emerging Kriol system,” said Woods.
She noted that just before George Gabb’s death, he was working on a reprint of his 1996 book, Check Out Deh Yah Gabb Proverbs. No doubt, those who are committed to preserving his legacy will ensure that his intended mission will be accomplished.
The third remembrance at today’s ceremony came from Andy Palacio, deputy chief administrator of the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH). Palacio said that in September 2002 Gabb received the meritorious service award from the Government of Belize. In 1998, the Belize Arts Council presented him with the Outstanding Artist Award. Palacio shared an essay by Alexandra Coye, which had been commissioned back then. That essay documented how he rose to excellence as a self-taught artist.
Ms. Coye’s essay said that Gabb also trained, coached and won (with Alfred Parks) in Cross Country cycle racing, as well as pit pan races, and helped to revive the Regatta.
He also taught zericote carving free of cost to many youths.
George Michael Gabb, son of the deceased, presented the eulogy. Of his father, he said: “He defined who he was, and he was and will be different things to different people.”
“To provoke and evoke was his purpose – no matter who, no matter the cause, no matter the time. He would transform an old, discarded piece of driftwood or fashion a phrase solely for the truth – whatever that is.”
His son also described him as “the solution looking for every problem,” adding that there was nothing small about George Seymour Gabb.
The Anglican clergy, led by Bishop Philip Wright, presided over the ceremonies, following which Gabb was laid to rest at the Lord’s Ridge Cemetery in Belize City.
George Gabb’s daughter, Deirdre Gabb Frampton, read his award winning poem, The Sculptured Sculptor. The beginning goes like this:
“I speak not with the voice of make-believe/or with art of forming words to bring about some fancy thought,/or to make some rhythmic sound or to please a lover’s quest,/even not to answer King’s command,/but rather to open one’s heart and mind, and let thoughts/fly in a sky of truth that man and angels may hear my song.”