Sir Dunstan St Omer
Local Cultural Hero Passes Away
Born on October 24th, 1927 in Castries, Sir Dunstan St Omer became St Lucia's premier artist and muralist until his passing on May 5th, 2015. He designed St Lucia's National Flag and his murals grace the altars of many St Lucian churches, including the notable Holy Family Mural at Church of the Holy Family at Jacmel, Roseau.
Sir Dunstan attended primary school at the St Aloysius R.C. Boys School and went on to St. Mary's College for his secondary years. It was at St. Mary's that he befriended Derek Walcott and Leo 'Spa' St Helene, who were to have a lasting influence on his life. The trio were introduced to National Cultural Hero Harold Simmons who had a profound impact on the boys and their art. It was with Harry Simmons that the group began to value the St Lucian landscape as a worthy subject for artistic reflection.
In 1946 St. Omer left St Lucia for Curacao to work with Dutch Oil; there he was influenced by Greek painter Pandelis. When he returned to St Lucia in 1949 it was to various teaching jobs, including a stint at his alma mater. He received a scholarship to go to Puerto Rico where he studied art for a year and returned home to work with mentor Harry Simmons as sub-editor at the Voice newspaper, eventually replacing him from 1959-1962. Sir Dunstan worked with the Ministry of Education as an art specialist and remained there until he retired in 2000.
His first mural was commissioned by Fr. Joseph Vrignaud, for the altar of Our Lady's Chapel at La Clery. Sir Dunstan would go on to paint several more throughout the island, drawing both acclaim and criticism for his depictions of black divinity. Sir Dunstan once said, 'If my faith depends on Christ being white, I think I will lose my faith, because the relationship that exists in the world between the white race and the black race is one of prejudice and inferiority for the blacks . . .' His work inspired an art movement and he is father of the prismism style of painting.
Awarded a Papal Medal by the Catholic Church and the St Lucia Cross by the St Lucia government on the occasion of the island's 25th Anniversary, in 2007 the Folk Research Centre declared him a National Cultural Hero. Accolade was to follow accolade as in 2009 he received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the University of the West Indies, and in 2010 was the Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) was conferred on him in the New Years Honours of H.M Queen Elizabeth II.
Sir Dunstan St Omer was married to Lady Cynthia and together they had nine children.