An Immigrant’s Tale

Musings are thoughts, the thoughtful kind. For the purpose of these articles, a-musings are thoughts that might amuse, entertain and even enlighten. 

One day, my wife woke up with the idea of painting a school or two – it turned out to be three in the end: Ti Rocher Castries, La Guerre and Balata – well, not the whole school but a classroom or wall or stairwell. You know, brighten the place up.

The Rotary Club of Gros Islet was, as always, willing to help, and begged, borrowed or stole the paint requited – well, they probably did not actually steal the paint; it would not have been the Rotary thing to do.

Then off we toddled, my wife Inger and I, to La Guerre School. Alongside us we had a couple of friends and Jane, a professional designer, who has since left the island and returned to the U.K. And of course, we had a whole host of willing helpers in the school kids.

I think we painted three classrooms – all the kindergarten classes. After we’d finished, the Permanent Secretary Dr Jules, as supportive as ever, even sent representatives from the Ministry to take part in the handing-over ceremony.

We went on to paint the stairwell at Balata School – very, very hectic – where the kids were clamoring to help paint the fishes that swam around on their walls. I think I can still see traces of the original paintings.

Then Ti Rocher where Principal Judy, as energetic as ever, more or less took over and had her kids paint the whole wall facing the main road with motifs the pupils had come up with themselves.

Before this painting adventure, Inger had organized a course in art, drawing and especially painting, for “our” principals. In those days we had an office in L’Anse Road, opposite Wasco by the school, in the downstairs apartment in the house of our daughter-in-law’s parents.

Our son had taken a year off university to manage the building of our present home – the first one had been an absolute disaster, but more of that later – and, of course, met a girl, not just any girl, “Our Cathy”. Boy, what a handful! But as Martin said to me one day, “Dad, you and I are very similar. We both like difficult women!”

Anyway, back to the art course. As usual, the Rotary Club of Gros Islet provided all the paints, brushes and paper needed, and our trusted friend Jane played teacher, and the principals from all 11 primary and infant schools in the north met every week, on Tuesdays I think, for more than a term and discovered the joys of mixing paints, making shapes, creating pictures and suddenly, unexpectedly came to appreciate the talents that we all have. They were artists!

The idea was, of course, that through encouraging principals to discover the talents they had, we would eventually see a greater interest in schools for the visual arts. Well, it didn’t happen. And I suppose in an environment where principals ration out toilet paper it would always be difficult to dish out drawing paper, pencils, crayons, brushes and paints to allow kids to develop the artistic sides of their natures.

St Lucia has, percentage-wise, as many gifted artists as any other country, no more no less. There is nothing in the water we drink or the air we breathe that makes us different. People are generally the same the world over – at least that is what I, as a life-long professional immigrant, have come to believe. What makes a difference is the number of opportunities available, the number of opportunities an individual can create, and the ability to grasp and exploit these opportunities when they arise.

Without preparation, training, and an eye for the main chance, we let these opportunities pass us by. St Lucia, a country that lives off its heritage, its environment, its culture, does next-to-nothing for its artists, and even less – if it is possible to do less than nothing – to foster the artistic talent of its children.


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