They call him Michelangelo of the Caribbean but that's not how he was introduced to me. Tall and genial, with flashing gray eyes, Sir Dunstan St. Omer was introduced to me as St. Lucia's leading artist and cultural expert. I later discovered that he represents much more than that. I made the mistake of trying to interview him during the St. Lucia Jazz Fest. We walked through the fest and every three minutes, he was stopped by men and women hugging him. Finally, we had to be escorted by security to a private tent, which was the only way I could talk to this beloved icon undisturbed. I thought a photo of Dunstan next to the vivid St. Lucia flag, above, made a powerful image. I later found out that it was Dunstan who designed the flag, with it's cerulean blue representing St. Lucia's sky and sea. Along with Derek Walcott, Dunstan St. Omer symbolizes the genius of St. Lucian culture, which boasts the highest ratio of Nobel Laureates in the world.
A painter noted for his altarpieces and church murals that infuse St. Lucian hallmarks with traditional Catholic figures like the painting above, which appears in a St. Lucia cathedral. Dunstan explained to me exactly what makes St. Lucia so special. "It's the culture that creates the genius," he says. "Of all the islands, St. Lucia had the least amount of slavery. Colonialists fought over this island 14 different times. In the process of all the fighting, there was hardly any time for slavery to take root. We are so peaceful and creative because we aren't vexed. We are free." At 81-years-old, a father of nine and grandfather and great-grandfather to 21, Dunstan St, Omer also acts as a father figure to St. Lucia, displaying and documenting all of her natural and cultural beauty.