For Rochelle Etwaroo: the hybrid of two great people and a seed of hope.
The Dougla Defect is evidence of Guyana’s ongoing Black and Indian war. It is a source of shame to both the Black and Indian man who insists on remaining entrenched in fear. They have both condemned the hybrid of themselves to that cold, cruel no man’s land that separates them.
It is not the Black man or the Indian man who has suffered the most painful wounds in this war. It is the hybrid who suffers; the Dougla boy, the Dougla girl, whose only crime has been birth. The war has stolen home and identity from the Dougla and replaced it with hurt and displacement. How can a nation be so cruel to its children?
I met a Dougla girl and her pain during my second year at the University of Guyana. She came to Turkeyen Campus from Tain Campus, Berbice. Even now, I remember seeing her for the first time. The word that comes most easily to mind is “exotic”. Her delicate features, smooth brown skin and wild, thick, long hair made her beautiful to me. She did not agree. For her this was the source of her pain, the reason she did not belong anywhere.
A big man hustles a lil girl
Big Man: “Gurl, you nice you know!
You can make me a nice dougla fowl wife some day.”
She thinks to herself:”Why did he just refer to me as a fowl? I look like a fowl?…”
(Rochelle Etwaroo photo and testimony)
During our second semester together she started a photography project for an art class. Without really thinking about it, I helped her dub it “Dougla Defect?” But it was not until I read the testimonies which were to accompany the photos that I really understood my friend’s pain.
As we edited her project, I saw her for the first time. In my pain at least I felt that I belonged somewhere. In her pain, she was not allowed to belong anywhere. How could she belong when the halves of her were at war? When she was attacked by both sides? It is one thing to be condemned to a particular side because of your skin colour, but it is an entirely different thing to be a refugee in your own country because you do not truly belong to any side.
The suffering of my friend, the hybrid, the Dougla, the biracial Guyanese, is directly connected to the racial politics that has destroyed our nation’s psyche. My friend, my sister, my nation’s child is a causality of the political legacy that Guyana enjoys. She is both witness to and victim of the hate, anger and bitterness that exists on each side of the divide.
But even the no man’s land in which she dwells has fertile soil. She and those like her are seeds of hope. They are testimony to the fact that every now and then the Black and Indian souls are capable of seeing each other. And when they do see and they venture into the void that separates them the result is a merging of two great people; of hope for Guyana.
Dougla Defect? No, it is not a defect at all. It is only two people attacking the Dougla, reducing the Dougla’s self worth because they see what they fear most in this hybrid, they see each other. There have been days when I have wished to be a hybrid of the Black and Indian so that I could reprimand both sides without being accused of prejudice. But even without such a harsh blessing, I can still tell them that by hating and hurting the Dougla they only hate and hurt themselves.