Dougla Girl, or Half-Douen
by Caroline Mair
The initial title for this was Half-Douen, because although she clearly possesses a face, there is a childishness and playfulness about the girl. Mischievous. Impish. For some reason, as I was drawing her, a sentence was repeating in my head: You know that dougla girl down the road? Her father beat her and she turn douen.
There is no rational explanation for the connection. It was a blip, a random brain jolt no doubt triggered by a glass of wine and the hot Caribbean midday sun over me as I drew. But it started me thinking about what it means to be ‘dougla’, the notion of belonging, and the crisis of identity that occurs within mixed people.
The word dougla has connotation of “bastard” or “illegitimate” in Bhojpuri, the Hindi dialect spoken in Trinidad. The colloquial meaning refers to a person who is of mixed Afro-Trinidadian and Indo-Trinidadian descent. Meanwhile, Douens are the lost souls of children that have not yet been baptized or christened, doomed to exist in limbo and wander the earth after death. Both dougla and douens are rootless, not ordained, innocent children not embraced and included by social mores.
To be mixed is to be ever at the interstices of culture. Half-way, in-between. At the intersection. Never fully belonging to one culture or another. Included by many, but exempt from all.
Times are changing, but to be part of several cultures at once is always a choice. Which one do you choose? To pledge allegiance to one is often perceived as rejecting another.
- exhibited at Hue Man Form Exhibition, Port of Spain, 2010
p.s. What’s a douen? (and why they don’t have faces?)