Alliance Française de Sainte Lucie, in the pyramid at Pointe Seraphine, T4526602, courses and cultural events, library etc. Bonsai Society meets every 2nd Thu of the month, 1700, contact Mary Charles, T4501258.
There is a good deal of French influence. Most of the islanders, who are predominantly of African descent (though a few black Caribs are still to be found in certain areas), speak Creole/Kweyol, a similar language to French, and in rural areas many people, particularly the older generation, have great difficulty with English. There is a French provincial style of architecture; most place names are French; about 79% of the population are Roman Catholics. The French Caribbean also has an influence on music, you can hear zouk and cadance played as much as calypso and reggae. The Folk Research Centre has recorded local music. Musical Traditions of St Lucia has 32 selections representing all the musical genres, with information on the background of the various styles. Lucian Kaiso is an annual publication giving pictures and information on each season of St Lucian calypso. In the pre-Christmas period, small drum groups play in rural bars which sometimes are no bigger than a banana shed. Traditionally, singers improvise a few lines about people and events in the community and the public joins in. The singing is exclusively in Kweyol, wicked and full of sexual allusions. The dance moves also differ from what you see at other events. It is difficult to find out where and when the drums are playing, seek local knowledge. Some announcements are made on Radio St Lucia in the Kweyol programme.
One of the Caribbean’s most renowned poets and playwrights in the English language, Derek Walcott, was born in St Lucia in 1930. He has published many collections of poems, an autobiography in verse, Another Life, critical works, and plays such as Dream on Monkey Mountain. Walcott uses English poetic traditions, with a close understanding of the inner magic of the language (Robert Graves), to expose the historical and cultural facets of the Caribbean. His books are highly recommended, including his narrative poem Omeros, which contributed to his winning the 1992 Nobel Prize for Literature. In 1997 he published The Bounty (Faber & Faber), his first collection of poems since winning the Nobel Prize, full of sadness at the loss of friends but rejoicing in homecoming and his island. Walcott is also a prolific painter, which was his first love, and his watercolours can be found (and bought from his home) on the island. Other St Lucian writers worth reading are the novelists Garth St Omer (for instance The Lights on the Hill) and Earl Long (an MD in the USA), and the poets Jane King-Hippolyte, Kendal Hippolyte, John Robert Lee and Jacintha Lee, who has a book of local legends.
St Lucia has also produced painters of international renown. Dunstan St Omer was born in St Lucia in 1927 into a Catholic family and is best known for his religious paintings. He created the altarpiece for the Jacmel church near Marigot Bay, where he painted his first black Christ, and reworked Castries Cathedral in 11 weeks in 1985 prior to the Pope’s visit. St Omer and his four sons have also painted other countryside churches (Monchy and Fond St Jacques) and a quarter of a mile of sea wall in Anse La Raye.
Llewellyn Xavier was born in Choiseul in 1945 but moved to Barbados in 1961, where he discovered painting. He moved to England in 1968, where he created Mail Art, a new concept in modern art involving many well-known personalities around the world. Galleries in North America and Europe have exhibited his work and his paintings are in many permanent collections. Xavier returned to St Lucia in 1987, where he was shocked by the environmental damage. He has since campaigned vigorously for the environment through his art. The Global Council for Restoration of the Earth’s Environment is a work created from recycled materials including prints, postage stamps and seals and logos of preservation societies. It is on permanent display at the artist’s studio, T4509155 for an appointment.
Other outstanding artists include Ron Savory, Ron’s Atelier and Framing Co, Vide Bouteille Industrial Park, just past the roundabout at the end of the airport runway (called La Clery junction), T4524412. His rich rainforest scenes and his dancing figures are impressive and he sells collectables, souvenir art, paintings from originals to limited prints to prints, expensive to inexpensive. Sean Bonnett St Remy paints wonderful local scenes, village scenes with nostalgic charm and accuracy, he can be contacted at Photographic Images, 42 Brazil Street. Winston Branch is splashy, modern abstract, and shows internationally from London to Brazil. He is currently teaching in the USA. Chris Cox paints St Lucian birds, such as the parrot and the nightjar. He won an award at the Arts Award ceremony in January 2000 and can be contacted at Forestry. Arnold Toulon’s Modern Art Gallery in Bois d’Orange, T4529079, also exhibits local artists including Cedric George and Nancy Cole, along with his own works. Alcina Nolley, an artist and teacher of art, can refer you to many artists and artisans, particularly of the Arts and Crafts Association, T4532338, noll...@candw.lc
The last week in January is Nobel Laureate Week, with lectures celebrating the two Nobel prize winners produced by the island (Sir Arthur Lewis and Derek Walcott). They were both born on 23 January. Other events include the annual Arts Awards, during which the Cultural Centre is packed.