Sir Dun­stan St Omer

Lo­cal Cul­tural Hero Passes Away

Tropical Traveller Magazine - - CONTENTS -

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.

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