AN ARTIST IMAGINES CASTRIES WITH ITS OWN NATIONAL MONUMENT!
Alwyn St Omer has lived decades filled with experiences of theatre, literature and art. Like his other siblings he always reminisces on his childhood memories of meeting, at his father’s home, local and international pioneers in the arts and advocates for cultural preservation. Sir Dunstan St Omer did not want his children to pursue art, by his son’s account. But when he realized they would sneak into his painting supplies and make their own pieces, he stopped resisting. Alwyn said it was because his father knew an artist’s life could be difficult, with little appreciation from his own countrymen.
Alwyn and Alexis
Felix plotted monuments for acompetition meant to commemorate Saint Lucia’s 10th anniversary of Independence. “People like John Compton, my dad, George Charles, they came from colonialism and independence was a big dream. When we achieved it, we allowed it to fizzle because of local politics. It was never really celebrated,” said Alwyn.
By his telling, by 1989 John Compton, Romanus Lansiquot
and other government personnel had formed a committee to get the monument underway. Alwyn’s design and Alexis’ plan and location were approved by Cabinet. “It was meant to celebrate people who had worked hard and aspired to achieve excellence,” said Alwyn. He had recently personified the Amazona Versicolor as a cartoonist, so he thought, “What better than the Amazona Versicolor in abstract? It has three triangles just like the flag.” The structure was meant to tower almost seventy feet in Trou Garnier, near the Castries waterfront, all white and depicting the national bird in flight.
Thirty years later the envisaged monument remains a dream. “It was meant to serve as a medium of inspiration for Saint Lucians to strive towards the economic and social progress of the island,” the artist mused. “In the States you have the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower in France, so why not our own here?” Asked why Saint Lucia should be the first Caribbean island with its own Statue of Liberty equivalent, he smiled: “Well, we are the only island to boast two Nobel Laureates!”
He added: “We have to do something with Castries. The monument would completely modernize the city. It would be a tourist attraction in the middle of Castries.” He asserts that as a country that produced the “greatest modern writer of Shakespearean style,” Saint Lucia can do a better job at providing a unique experience to tourists. “I have to quote my old man: ‘We are a very gifted people, but we are very disoriented people.’ When people come here they see a dirty CDC. We have no museum and no theatre in the land of Derek Walcott. It seems not to matter to our leaders that what we offer at our craft centres are imported from Taiwan and China. We are boasting about tourists coming but we’re not selling our art; we have no art in public spaces. People come here knowing that this is a destination where you don’t have to spend, so they hold their money until they get to St Croix or one of those places.”
The monument would be the catalyst for Alwyn’s idealistic Castries. “Successive governments always say it’s something they want to do. Even the former mayor of Castries, Irvin John, who was a stalwart, really wanted to do it,” he lamented. “The tourism industry is a new creature but a huge monster. These hotels have bigger budgets than the country’s. The people on the ground want to be part of the tourism too,” said Alwyn, referring to tourism minister Dominic Fedee’s much lauded Village Tourism initiative.
For that and a culturally enriched Castries to work, Alwyn says, government needs to change policies. “A 500-room hotel would open up in Saint Lucia and import all its art and craft. We must have our own local creations available to visitors looking for souvenirs of Saint Lucia that truly represent who we are.”
Saint Lucia’s very own national monument was approved by Cabinet over thirty years ago.
Alwyn St Omer still perseveres for Castries to have it’s equivalent of the Statue of Liberty.