Last year, ahead of the unveiling of the John Compton statue at Constitution Park, the STAR featured a wall along the Faux-a-Chaud Road, Castries that had once featured an arresting mural of the late prime minister by Alwyn St. Omer, son of renowned local artist Dunstan St. Omer.
Commissioned nine years ago by the Castries City Council and designed to inspire national pride, the mural and the wall it was painted on had gradually turned into something altogether disgusting.
The general reaction when this newspaper featured pictures of what was left of the mural was embarrassment. Many expressed the view that the disfigured mural was indicative of how the nation had regressed over the years since Sir John’s passing.
At the time St. Omer revealed during a conversation that he was seeking assistance to have the mural restored. He also talked about his failed efforts at erecting a national monument of his own design that had been approved by Sir John in 1989.
In the weeks leading up to island’s 36th year of Independence it seemed the mural was being given a face-lift. I imagined the National Independence Committee or the CCC was behind the project. Boy, was I wrong.
It turned out Alwyn St. Omer had approached the CCC, the initial funders, perchance they might wish to assist in the mural’s restoration. Alas, the council was too broke to help out. Undaunted, St. Omer turned to several private sector individuals whose businesses were reeling from the pressures of our comatose economy. To the painter’s surprise, some contributed cash, others tools and materials.
“This time around the project will involve not just the restoration of the mural,” St. Omer told me, but it also requires the reconstructing of the badly damaged wall and a more durable surface.”
As I write the wall has been professionally replastered, the surface primed and bearing a painting of the national flag.
Having witnessed the violent confrontations of two rival gangs on opposite sides of the wall, St. Omer has also been inspired to turn the wall into a symbol of unity.
He has modified his original concept for the mural so that it will now feature both Sir John Compton and Sir George Charles as central figures surrounded by illustrations representing outstanding Saint Lucians and the motto ‘The Land, the People, the Light.’
The painting will also feature such cultural icons as Sir Dunstan St. Omer, Derek Walcott, Sessene Descartes and Harry Simmons. The close to 100-foot wall will portray a united Saint Lucia.
“This we will do by featuring business people who have made great contributions to the country such as Adjodha, an Indian; JQ Charles, a black man; and Robert Devaux, a white man.”
In preparation for the next stage of the project, Alwyn St. Omer told the STAR that he has drawn in all the figures and illustrations in order to bring in select talented, unemployed, young artists to help with the painting of the mural. The Ministry of Creative Industries came on board with contributions toward the cost of materials.
And what of his other dream? “It is all in the hands of the authorities. I mean, we had the sod-turning ceremony in 1989, at Tru Garnier at the Castries waterfront. The late Romanus Lansiquot was there, as was Sir John.
“We are soon honoring him with a posthumous hero’s award, so I think we should also do the right thing and implement this dream of a monument,” said St. Omer.