Letters & Opinion

The Three St. Omers I Saw From a Distance

Sir Dunstan at investiture ceremony at Government House, April 2010. [Photo: Stan Bishop]
Sir Dunstan at investiture ceremony at Government House, April 2010. [Photo: Stan Bishop]
By Peter Josie
By Peter Josie

THE following are mere re-collections of Dunstan St. Omer, whom I observed from various distances, over 50 years. I first saw him at St Mary’s College (SMC), where he taught drawing and painting. ‘Art’, as it was called, was encouraged at an early age at St. Mary’s. I claimed a liking for drawing from my father who once produced the most intricate turtle shell designs, carvings and engravings into purses for women. In my many travels I never saw anything close to my father’s turtle shell work of art. His creations were fabricated in his spare time as he believed that every man should have a ‘real job.’

Learning at Dunstan’s hands the art of angles, perspective, shadows, and composition of characters I may have caught his third artistic eye. The high point in that relationship came when I was selected with two other SMC students to help paint his beach scenes inside the new ‘Gaiety Club’ in down town Castries. We spent several Saturdays at that work and when completed it met with the approval of the owner Mr. Joseph Adjodha and his many patrons and visitors. Although my part was the small matter of trying to get palm leaves to look alive, I received much encouragement from Mr. St Omer for my effort.

Our ways parted when we both left St. Mary’s on different missions. I had little contact with him afterwards. I was aware he lived in the CDC in Castries a fifteen minutes walk from my home at Rock Hall Road, Marchand. He once invited me to view his paintings and to learn more advanced painting techniques. I declined using pressure of work and a busy sports calendar as excuses. In any event I had taken my father’s warning about artistic talent and finding a real job quite seriously. Art was a God-given talent which was to be exercised part time and secondary, to regular pay cheque.

Later, I witnessed in Mr. St Omer, a sort of pent up frustration perhaps waiting to explode. The movie ‘Rebel without a cause’ came to mind. Such frustration was due in part to official disregard for art in general and in particular to the neglect of his work and the grudging acceptance (and lip service) of that of the Walcott boys, and the St. Lucia Arts Guild. By then Dunstan had worked in the Dutch Antilles and had emerged a connoisseur of the better known European painters. He was at pains to explain that art was neither ‘white’ nor ‘black’ and that excellence was diminished when it was colour coded. Telling that to those who were incapable of hearing or feeling, and having just discovered they were Africans, may have exacerbated his frustration.

Mr. St Omer was a staunch Roman Catholic who may have understood better than most that, the vengeful, and jealous and punishing ‘white’ God was an invention of man. It represented what man had become! The deeper spiritual truth which Mr. St. Omer must have struggled with for a long time is that God is love. That spiritual truth is changeless. God loves and sustains everything He has created. That love is within reach of every person and it is best expressed in loving, giving and sharing unconditionally, and without wanting or expecting anything in return. That’s the God Jesus spoke of and called ‘father,’

I returned to Saint Lucia in the middle of the Black Power storm which Stokely Carmichael and others had started in the USA. That awakening storm was then raging in the Caribbean and African Diaspora. At a discussion in the Castries Town Hall around 1971 on the economic future of Saint Lucia, Dunstan St. Omer arrived late, seeming desirous of sharing his thoughts and experiences with the gathering. That evening he took those who were connected to the new black power gospel of Carmichael to task. At the same time he also appeared to criticize his church for the dominant white images which seemed to deny the presence of people of colour around the crucified Jesus. He reminded me of a mind at war with itself – perhaps one in transition to a better and nobler place.

It’s not always easy to witness a gifted and perceptive mind in the process of drastic change. Such a mind must jettison previously held ideas (and learned ‘cultural facts,’ in the process of transition). Old falsehoods must be discarded when new evidence demands. Reasoning, struggle with suspicion and fear, in shaping a new future. That transformative process may have found its highest expression in the two very different flag designs he produced to mark the island’s constitutional advancement to Statehood. He was dissuaded from submitting the green with a black eagle rising, by friends.

Friends! How many of these will ever journey into Dante’s Inferno to be reborn, refined and re-defined? How many had consulted the last verse of Isaiah chapter forty for a more in-depth discovery of the eagle? Besides, that green flag with a touch of yellow and red at independence, still holding its rising black eagle would have been a far more powerful symbol for an emerging Saint Lucian civilization and Caribbean nation. Alas!

Be that as it may, by the mid-seventies I had immersed myself quite deeply into the politics of Saint Lucia to have cared about the vagaries of a national flag. However, it was with great joy and contentment that I first learnt of Sir Dunstan’s mural at the Roseau R. C. Church. The Roseau and Cul-de-Sac valleys had become the focus for much of my early grass roots education activities (with the Forum) and the people who lived there. I smiled when I dared to think there was some connection between the awakening remnants of slavery and the mural at that church which boldly depicted native folk as God’s helpers.

By then the mature philosopher, the jovial and cordial master had evolved, refined and polished. Visionary leadership within the local Catholic Church saw Sir Dunstan immerse himself with renewed spirit in his many Church murals. I peered occasionally into the Castries Cathedral as he and his sons transformed the interior with their art. Still, I continued to observe him only from a distance. His obvious artistic ability was a rare gift – one which few can truly appreciate.

By the time his friend Derek Walcott was raised to world prominence by the Nobel Committee, Sir Dunstan St Omer had already achieved his life’s purpose. The Knighthood – ‘Arise Sir Dunstan’ – was merely icing on the cake. He had arisen a long time before. Indeed, that rising came even before he was allowed into the church with his murals. The knighthood and such accolades after a lifetime of hard struggle seemed almost meaningless, to me. His crown of glory had long been bestowed by his maker and, supported by his dear wife and family who had borne the burdens of the day with him.

Sometimes a single word will not capture the essence of a character at a particular defining moment. But perhaps ‘phlegmatic’ comes close to the first Dunstan. Then ‘transition’ would accurately define the second. Finally, ‘sanguine’ renders the final product – Sir Dunstan – fit for eyes that wish to see. ‘Let no man write my epitaph,’ may well be a most fitting tribute to a life spent awakening a slumbering people.


  1. Your referring to Kwame Ture by his slave-name is further evidence of your self-hatred. Kwame came into the knowledge that his name was not “TOBY” or “JOSIE” and discarded the slave-name as he evolved in the knowledge of self. Many of you mis-educated Negroes don’t have a clue that the Sphinx and Pyramids were constructed by a Black People in Kemet, and as the blogger Bishop Gatchet 11 has attempted to inform you mis-educated Negroes that the Sphinx was in the Image of the Black African, and Napolean’s systematic destruction of the Negroid features was all part and parcel of the destruction of the African Legacy to produce Negroes like Rick John Wayne, and Sambo Linus Clovis, and yourself; a bunch of self-hating idiots, calling themselves Romans. (“Bonaparte fired his cannons on the Egyptian Sphinx to transfigure its NUBIAN nose “)

    Ancient Egypt is commonly referred to as ‘km.t’ , believed to be a reference to the black Nile Delta earth. The determinative O49
    is used to designate the term for ‘country, inhabited/cultivated land’, called the niw.t (a political designate). It is a circle with a cross which represents a street, ‘town intersection’.[4]
    A cow
    identified as “black”.
    The 198 BC Rosetta Stone uses the Black (hieroglyph) three times to make the name of Egypt: km.t. Of the 22 placename uses for the “name of ancient Egypt”, 7 are for another name of Egypt as iAt-
    M17 G1 X1

    , signifying the soil of Egypt, N30: X1*Z2-
    N23 X1
    , which is the Greek form of “Egypt”, signifying it as “the (divine) place of the mound (of creation)” and the fertile black soil of the land after the Inundation.[5][6] (Note the doubled hieroglyph, Gardiner N23,
    , is used as the Two Lands, (Upper Egypt, and Lower Egypt), and the common use of “Ta-Mer-t”, and additionally uses of ‘Horus of the Two Lands’ .)

    It is tragic how the non-thinking Negro regurgitates the diet of his Caucasian Masters, “God IS LOVE” you regurgitate, continuing to mislead the slumbering victims of White Man Worship. In Arabic/in the Qur-an Allah calls himself by many names/Attributes – Al-Wadood, the Loving, being just one of these Attributes. (Al is the definite article, “The”) But Allah Calls himself the, مُخۡزِى ٱلۡكَـٰفِرِينَ The Humiliator, pronounced Al_ Mukh-zee in Arabic. Here are some of Allah’s Attributes in the Qur-anic verses below; I will put some of them in brackets.

    Surah Al-Hashr

    Allah is He, than whom there is no other god― Who knows (all things) both secret and open;{ He Most Gracious}, {Most Merciful}. (22)
    Allah is He, than whom there is no other god― {the sovereign}, {the Holy One}/Al QUDOOS, the Source of Peace (and Perfection)AS SALAAM. the Guardian of Faith, the Preserver of Safety, the Exalted in Might, the Irresistible, the Supreme: Glory to Allah! (High is He) above the partners they attribute to Him. (23)
    He is Allah the Creator/AL KHALIQ the Evolver, the Bestower of Forms (or Colours). To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names: whatever is in the heavens and on earth, doth declare His Praises and Glory: and He is the exalted in Might/AL AZIZ, the Wise/AL HAKEEM. (24)

  2. Not even the coattails of this illustrious statesman can clothe thee in pious self piety.
    You shall be wrenched from his robe in much the same way Calvary’s Roman Guards did in order to cast Las Vegas style LOTS for the blood soaked robes of the crucified!
    Here is the clarion precedent with Mary and Guy at your bon Voyage party

  3. The name “Abdul” prefixed to the Attribute of God means “Servant of”. Abdul-Jabbar means servant of the Compeller. If the attribute begins with a Sun letter like the R or S the pronunciation changes to Abdur-Rahman: Servant of The Compassionate
    Abdus-Salaam: Servant of the Peaceful
    Abdul-Malik: Servant of the King

    Arabic English translation of 99 names of Allah
    Asmaa’u Allah Al-Hosna
    أسماء الله الحسنى

    # Arabic English translation of 99 names of Allah Asmaa’u Allah Al-Hosna
    1 الله The Greatest Name Allah
    2 الرحمن The All-Compassionate Ar-Rahman
    3 الرحيم The All-Merciful Ar-Rahim
    4 الملك The Absolute Ruler Al-Malik
    5 القدوس The Pure One Al-Quddus
    6 السلام The Source of Peace As-Salam
    7 المؤمن The Inspirer of Faith Al-Mu’min
    8 المهيمن The Guardian Al-Muhaymin
    9 العزيز The Victorious Al-Aziz
    10 الجبار The Compeller Al-Jabbar
    11 المتكبر The Greatest Al-Mutakabbir
    12 الخالق The Creator Al-Khaliq
    13 البارئ The Maker of Order Al-Bari’
    14 المصور The Shaper of Beauty Al-Musawwir
    15 الغفار The Forgiving Al-Ghaffar
    16 القهار The Subduer Al-Qahhar
    17 الوهاب The Giver of All Al-Wahhab
    18 الرزاق The Sustainer Ar-Razzaq
    19 الفتاح The Opener Al-Fattah
    20 العليم The Knower of All Al-`Alim
    21 القابض The Constrictor Al-Qabid
    22 الباسط The Reliever Al-Basit
    23 الخافض The Abaser Al-Khafid
    24 الرافع The Exalter Ar-Rafi
    25 المعز The Bestower of Honors Al-Mu’izz
    26 المذل The Humiliator Al-Mudhill
    27 السميع The Hearer of All As-Sami
    28 البصير The Seer of All Al-Basir
    29 الحكم The Judge Al-Hakam
    30 العدل The Just Al-`Adl
    31 اللطيف The Subtle One Al-Latif
    32 الخبير The All-Aware Al-Khabir
    33 الحليم The Forbearing Al-Halim
    34 العظيم The Magnificent Al-Azim
    35 الغفور The Forgiver and Hider of Faults Al-Ghafur
    36 الشكور The Rewarder of Thankfulness Ash-Shakur
    37 العلي The Highest Al-Ali
    38 الكبير The Greatest Al-Kabir
    39 الحفيظ The Preserver Al-Hafiz
    40 المقيت The Nourisher Al-Muqit
    41 الحسيب The Accounter Al-Hasib
    42 الجليل The Mighty Al-Jalil
    43 الكريم The Generous Al-Karim
    44 الرقيب The Watchful One Ar-Raqib
    45 المجيب The Responder to Prayer Al-Mujib
    46 الواسع The All-Comprehending Al-Wasi
    47 الحكيم The Perfectly Wise Al-Hakim
    48 الودود The Loving One Al-Wadud
    49 المجيد The Majestic One Al-Majid
    50 الباعث The Resurrector Al-Ba’ith
    51 الشهيد The Witness Ash-Shahid
    52 الحق The Truth Al-Haqq
    53 الوكيل The Trustee Al-Wakil
    54 القوى The Possessor of All Strength Al-Qawiyy
    55 المتين The Forceful One Al-Matin
    56 الولي The Governor Al-Waliyy
    57 الحميد The Praised One Al-Hamid
    58 المحصى The Appraiser Al-Muhsi
    59 المبدئ The Originator Al-Mubdi’
    60 المعيد The Restorer Al-Mu’id
    61 المحيي The Giver of Life Al-Muhyi
    62 المميت The Taker of Life Al-Mumit
    63 الحي The Ever Living One Al-Hayy
    64 القيوم The Self-Existing One Al-Qayyum
    65 الواجد The Finder Al-Wajid
    66 الماجد The Glorious Al-Majid
    67 الواحد The One, the All Inclusive, The Indivisible Al-Wahid
    68 الصمد The Satisfier of All Needs As-Samad
    69 القادر The All Powerful Al-Qadir
    70 المقتدر The Creator of All Power Al-Muqtadir
    71 المقدم The Expediter Al-Muqaddim
    72 المؤخر The Delayer Al-Mu’akhkhir
    73 الأول The First Al-Awwal
    74 الآخر The Last Al-Akhir
    75 الظاهر The Manifest One Az-Zahir
    76 الباطن The Hidden One Al-Batin
    77 الوالي The Protecting Friend Al-Wali
    78 المتعال The Supreme One Al-Muta’ali
    79 البر The Doer of Good Al-Barr
    80 التواب The Guide to Repentance At-Tawwab
    81 المنتقم The Avenger Al-Muntaqim
    82 العفو The Forgiver Al-‘Afuww
    83 الرؤوف The Clement Ar-Ra’uf
    84 مالك الملك The Owner of All Malik-al-Mulk
    85 ذو الجلال و الإكرام The Lord of Majesty and Bounty Dhu-al-Jalal wa-al-Ikram
    86 المقسط The Equitable One Al-Muqsit
    87 الجامع The Gatherer Al-Jami’
    88 الغني The Rich One Al-Ghani
    89 المغني The Enricher Al-Mughni
    90 المانع The Preventer of Harm Al-Mani’
    91 الضار The Creator of The Harmful Ad-Darr
    92 النافع The Creator of Good An-Nafi’
    93 النور The Light An-Nur
    94 الهادي The Guide Al-Hadi
    95 البديع The Originator Al-Badi
    96 الباقي The Everlasting One Al-Baqi
    97 الوارث The Inheritor of All Al-Warith
    98 الرشيد The Righteous Teacher Ar-Rashid
    99 الصبور The Patient One As-Sabur

    Asma al-Husna – The Most Beautiful Names of God – the 99 Names Of Allah – Translation of the 99 Names of Allah – The 99 Names Of Allah – ALLAH الله – Al Rahman الرحمن – The All Beneficent Al Rahim الرحيم – The Most Merciful – Al Malik the King

  4. There’s no name given to man by which we must be saved, but by the name of JESUS.
    The name above all names.

    1. Surah Al-Anaam
      In the name of Allah Most Gracious Most Merciful.

      “It is those who believe and mix not their beliefs with wrong― that are (truly) in security, for they are on (right) guidance.” (82)

      That was the reasoning about Us, which We gave to Abraham (to use) against his people: We raise whom We will, degree after degree: for thy Lord is full of wisdom and knowledge. (83)

      We gave him Isaac and Jacob: all (three) We guided: and before him We guided Noah, and among his progeny, David, Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses, and Aaron: thus do We reward those who do good: (84)

      And Zakariya and John and Jesus and Elias: all in the ranks of the Righteous: (85)
      And Ismail and Elisha and Jonah and Lut: and to all We gave favour above the nations: (86)

      (To them) and to their fathers, and progeny and brethren: We chose them. And We guided them to a straight way. (87)

      This is the Guidance of Allah: He giveth that guidance to whom He pleaseth, of His worshippers. If they were to join other gods with Him, all that they did would be vain for them. (88)

      These were the men to whom We gave the Book, and authority, and prophethood: if these (their descendants) reject them, behold! We shall entrust their charge to a new People who reject them not. (89)

      Those were the (prophets) who received Allah’s guidance: Follow the guidance they received; Say: “No reward for this do I ask of you: this is no less than a Message for the nations.” (90)

      No just estimate of Allah do they make when they say: “Nothing doth Allah send down to man (by way of revelation)”: Say: “Who then sent down the Book which Moses brought?― a light and guidance to man: but ye make it into (separate) sheets for show, while ye conceal much (of its contents): therein were ye taught that which ye knew not― neither ye nor your fathers.” Say:
      “Allah (sent it down)”: then leave them to plunge in vain discourse and trifling. (91)

      And this is a Book which We have sent down, bringing blessings and confirming (the revelations) which came before it: that thou mayest warn the Mother of Cities and all around her. Those who believe in the Hereafter believe in this (Book), and they are constant in guarding their prayers. (92)

      Who can be more wicked than one who inventeth a lie against Allah, or saith, “I have received inspiration” when he hath received none or (again) who saith “I can reveal the like of what Allah hath revealed?” If thou couldst but see how the wicked (do fare) in the flood of confusion at death!― the angels stretch forth their hands, (saying) “Yield up your souls. this day shall ye receive your reward a penalty of shame, for that ye used to tell lies against Allah, and scornfully to reject of His Signs!” (93)

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