Monday, March 15, 2010

Michelangelo of the Caribbean


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.

13 comments:

Amanda said...

What an inspirational man!

Mary and Sean said...

I don't doubt for a second that creativity spawns from an unvexed life! Great post! I'm interested in St Lucia now...

Tiffany said...

Such a nice painting, interesting facts about st lucia too.

Fly Girl said...

Amanda, he was one of the most memorable people I ever met.

Mary, I never thought about it before but of course that makes sense! Oh you should get to St. Lucia if you can.

TIffany, The photo doesn't even do it justice.

A Cuban In London said...

You've given me a history lesson in just over a hundred-odd words. I didn't know who Dunstan is, I was unaware that St Lucia had had the least amount of slaves (I always thought it was the British who stayed there the longest) and last but not least, I didn't know that he had designed the St Lucian flag, which happens to be one of my favourite flags ever. It's that blue, like you, I love it. Many, many thanks for such an instructive post. And that quote, it's priceless.

Greetings from London.

Fly Girl said...

Cubano, the British did stay the longest but the French had abolished slavery already, after the French revolution. St. Lucia was the first colony in the new world to abolish slavery.

Catherine said...

what a wonderful role model for his island and such an inspiration to the artistic community everywhere...

eden said...

What a great chance for you to meet him personally! He is a wonderful man.That painting is very beautiful. And thank you for sharing information about St Lucia. I enjoyed reading this post.

Fly Girl said...

Catherine, he is a great inspiration, I was so impressed.

Eden,thanks, St. Lucia is one of my favorite islands and meeting Dunstan was an unforgettable experience.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

He looks quite a character

Vacation Villas said...

I like the altar piece. And also it's a great story for the old man. People like him usually get the most respect.

Fly Girl said...

Jean -Luc, oh he is!

Villas, that's exactly the way it should be. Thanks for dropping by.

hotel bedding said...

Such an interesting man - thanks for sharing :)