The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

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.

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