Creative people are special in their own right. They see things that others don’t. Their interpretations come from the depths of an unknown and for this, they are admired and even revered. St Lucia is a treasure trove of artists and artisans.
Photographer Bill Mortley offered a suggestion for this week’s column. He said to me, “Oh Alisha! This man is magnificent! You have to see him.”
Bill’s description of this man was vague to say this least and I couldn’t understand Bill’s rationale for the column but went with the idea nonetheless. One sunny morning we took a trip to Aux Lyon, Dennery. As we drove, we spotted a man, outside his abode, dutifully laboring on a stump of wood that looked like a deformed fish.
“There he is,” Bill smiled. The first noticeable feature was the several amorphous wooden figures around his workspace. He happily welcomed us. He beckoned me to climb up a dirt incline. Now at a closer angle, what I saw blew me away. I sat on a stack of concrete blocks, amazed. The wooden figures were not amorphous. They were wonderful incomplete wooden statues—a mermaid, a pelican with a fish in its mouth, kissing flamingoes, a sword fish. The detailing was so intricate.
His name is Duncan Constantine, a son of St Lucia of more than 49 years. Growing up in the Dennery community, he had a fascination for birds. The creatures left him in awe—their ability to defy gravity and the majesty of the species intrigued him. He developed an obsession. He tried to ventilate it by drawing but the two dimensional image did not capture the realism of the creatures he so admired. At the age of twelve, Duncan stumbled upon a piece of wood. Then it hit. He was going to make a bird.
Suffice it to say his first attempt was less than perfect but his perseverance never faltered. He met with two men who helped refine his skill into what it is today.
How exactly do these sculptures emerge? The secret lies in a stump of wood and a vision. Duncan prefers white cedar and mahogany. He examines the stump, then, with a pencil, he outlines a two dimensional pattern. He unleashes his chisel on the outline and begins digging the wood deliberately and carefully. It can take anywhere from a week to a month to complete a piece, depending on the size and detailing. After the carving is finished, Duncan sands the jagged edges down then varnishes it. Duncan laughs as he remembered some of his pieces made it to the United States, the United Kingdom and even as far as Germany. He believes some of his pieces may have even gone further than that.
Skilled with his hands and mind, Duncan does not believe he should neglect his gift. He can build a house with his bare hands. However, Duncan spends his days dedicated to carving his creations and feeding his passion. In his spare time he does carpentry and joinery.