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Dougla (Dogla): The mixed Ancestry

"Dougla" identity is just another example of the diverse and varied population found in the Caribbean

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by Shubhi Mangla

Introduction

Douglas (Doglas) are basically the people of mixed ancestry of Indians and Africans. In the secondary sense, Douglas, carries the meaning of an impure blood and calls the person an illegitimate child. The term originated from the Bhojpuri or Hindi word “Doogala”. According to Ferne Louanne Regis of The University of West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago, in her paper presented at The Asian Conference on Arts & Humanities 2013:  “The word Dougla  is linked to dogla which is of Indic origin and is defined by Platts (1884, p.534) as a person of impure breed, a hybrid, a mongrel; a two-faced or deceitful person and a hypocrite.”

In Martinique, people of mixed Indian and African descent are called chappè (escaped) or èchappè(escaped). Its literal meaning is a person who escaped from being a pure Indian. In Guadeloupe, these people are termed as batta coolie or batta-zendeyn, wherein batta means “bastard” but intends to give a sense of mixed rather than a negative meaning.

The people who are called ‘Dougla’ do not always look similar. They do have some differences in their features. Dougla people mostly have thick black wavy hair and a rich brown skin with a slight undertone.

From You Tube: Mighty Dougla - Split Me In Two
From You Tube

History

  • The very first records of the Douglas were the result of the interaction between Indian men and African women. At that time, Indian women were considered a minority among the migrants. Women did not cross Atlantic as they assumed themselves unfit for labor and feared exploitation.
  • Preservation of their Hindu culture and religious practices was highly important for the laborers who took voyage across the Atlantic. Indulging in non-religious practices who did not belong to their community was considered a compromise with their religion, descent and culture. It was considered crucial for surviving in a foreign land.
  • Indians did not arrive in the British Caribbean with an intention to reside permanently. Their main goal was to achieve material wealth and return to their homeland. But this took a lot of time. Thus, the Douglas represents the delay of such goals.

Guyana

Guyana has the largest population of Douglas. Half of the population in Guyana comprises of Indo-Guyanese and Afro-Guyanese. The doula population in Guyana rose in the post-independence period due to urbanization, socialization, Inter-ethnic marriages, occupations and inter-religious activities. Most of the douglas are youngsters, particularly below 40 years of age. Presently, Douglas comprise of 17% of Guyanese population. Douglas are now starting to put forward their heritage.

Trinidad

The term Douglas is used by Indian-Trinidadians and African-Trinidadians. Black and Indian tend are used to observe the purity standards. Douglas get to choose their own identity. If they look like afro-Trinidadians, they choose black and choose Indian if they look more like Indo-Trinidadians. It is known that the Indo-Trinidadians are more religious, ethnic and rigid to its culture and tend to mix less with other communities as compared to Afro-Trinidadians. In Trinidad, Douglas can also alienate themselves from both the groups and claim them simply as Trinidadian. Hence, gaining national or ethnic identity.

Conclusion

Dr. Elizabeth Rosabelle Sieusarran, a professor at the University of the West Indies School of Continuing Education, delivered a speech at the official launch of the Indian Arrival Day Heritage Village set up by the El Dorado Shiv Mandir. She said that it is up to East Indians in Trinidad to decide whether want to accept douglas, mixed-race people of Indian and African descent, or outcast them from their community. She said, “In our quest for establishing unity among our people it is imperative for us to note a rapidly increasing phenomenon from the rise of a western system of education and the consequential westernization of the Indian community. This has resulted in the prevalence of inter-caste, inter-religious and inter-racial marriages. The Indian community has to decide how to handle the offspring of this significant group locally referred to as douglas. Do we accept them or ostracize them? Whatever course is adopted, the fragmentation of the Indian community must be avoided. Above all, we must always remember that Trinidad and Tobago is our patrimony. Our ancestors gave their blood and we have labored to enrich our country. We live in a multi-cultural society and co-existence is a necessary ingredient for our success in the future”.

Shubhi is a student of Journalism and Mass Communication in New Delhi, India. She is currently working as an intern in Newsgram. Twitter @shubhi_mangla

References

http://iafor.org/archives/offprints/acah2013-offprints/ACAH2013_0315.pdf

http://www.afropedea.org/dougla

http://www.landofsixpeoples.com/news603/ns60930.html

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  • Sundiata Tellem

    I laugh because people of color that do this and say evil things of CHILDREN of color that are also people of color show their lack of study of history & science. If these Indians have not studied DNA, pointedly the Haplogroup groups L2/L3/ ‘M’s & ‘N’s then they are only hating on themselves and their ancestors and Self Curse themselves as a results!

    In human mitochondrial genetics, Haplogroup M is a human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroup. An enormous haplogroup spanning all the continents, the macro-haplogroup M, like its sibling N, is a DESCENDANT of haplogroup L3.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_M_(mtDNA)

    Haplogroup M4

    Haplogroup M4 – found mainly in South Asia but some sequences in Eastern Saudi Arabia

    Haplogroup M4a – found in Gujarat, India

    Haplogroup L3

    In human mitochondrial genetics, Haplogroup L3 is a human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroup. L3 is believed to have arisen in East Africa 104,000 years ago. Haplogroup L3 has played a pivotal role in the history of the human species. Soon after the haplogroup arose in East Africa a relatively small number of migrants carried it across the Red Sea to the Arabian Peninsula, inaugurating an intercontinental migration that eventually settled every major land mass on Earth except Antarctica. That small group also gave rise to every non-African haplogroup.

    L3b – West Africa.

    L3c – East Africa and Sahel Zone. Ethiopian Jews, Yemeni Jews.

    L3d – Wide distribution in Africa. Among the Fulani, Chadians, Ethiopians-(Cushite), Akan people, Mozambique, Yemen Egyptians, Berbers.

    L3e – West-Central Africa. It is the most common L3 sub-clade in Bantu-speaking populations. It is also the most common L3 subclade amongst African Americans, Afro-Brazilians and Caribbean’s.

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  • Sundiata Tellem

    I laugh because people of color that do this and say evil things of CHILDREN of color that are also people of color show their lack of study of history & science. If these Indians have not studied DNA, pointedly the Haplogroup groups L2/L3/ ‘M’s & ‘N’s then they are only hating on themselves and their ancestors and Self Curse themselves as a results!

    In human mitochondrial genetics, Haplogroup M is a human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroup. An enormous haplogroup spanning all the continents, the macro-haplogroup M, like its sibling N, is a DESCENDANT of haplogroup L3.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_M_(mtDNA)

    Haplogroup M4

    Haplogroup M4 – found mainly in South Asia but some sequences in Eastern Saudi Arabia

    Haplogroup M4a – found in Gujarat, India

    Haplogroup L3

    In human mitochondrial genetics, Haplogroup L3 is a human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroup. L3 is believed to have arisen in East Africa 104,000 years ago. Haplogroup L3 has played a pivotal role in the history of the human species. Soon after the haplogroup arose in East Africa a relatively small number of migrants carried it across the Red Sea to the Arabian Peninsula, inaugurating an intercontinental migration that eventually settled every major land mass on Earth except Antarctica. That small group also gave rise to every non-African haplogroup.

    L3b – West Africa.

    L3c – East Africa and Sahel Zone. Ethiopian Jews, Yemeni Jews.

    L3d – Wide distribution in Africa. Among the Fulani, Chadians, Ethiopians-(Cushite), Akan people, Mozambique, Yemen Egyptians, Berbers.

    L3e – West-Central Africa. It is the most common L3 sub-clade in Bantu-speaking populations. It is also the most common L3 subclade amongst African Americans, Afro-Brazilians and Caribbean’s.

Next Story

Is Chutney out of place in Carnival?

Chutney has been able to resist the domination of calypso as the heartbeat of Carnival music

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Chutney has been able to resist the domination of calypso as the heartbeat of Carnival music. Wikimedia Commons
Chutney has been able to resist the domination of calypso as the heartbeat of Carnival music. Wikimedia Commons
  • Chutney soca music is a crossover style of music incorporating Soca elements
  • The satire on Prime Minister Rowley’s mother has been arguably the most controversial song in the history of calypso, soca and chutney in the country.
  • It is the International Chutney Queen Competition to be held on February 2 at Guaracara Park in San Fernando, the second largest city in the country

By Dr Kumar Mahabir

When people get angry, they tend to speak their mind. Their emotions explode in words that they have been suppressing for some time. Psychologist Dr Jeffrey Huntsinger proved this theory after conducting experiments at Loyala University in Chicago in the USA in 2012.

Chutney Soca promoter George Singh really spoke his mind when he became upset on learning that his 2018 show was not funded by the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB), an agency of the Afro-dominated Government in multi-ethnic Trinidad and Tobago  (T&T).

At a news conference which he convened, Singh said that “the decision by the Government not to support chutney soca was an insult to the art form” (Express 05/02/17).

George Singh is a Chutney Soca promoter. Wikimedia Commons
George Singh is a Chutney Soca promoter. Wikimedia Commons

Singh raged: “The Government, over the last three years, has consistently reduced funding to Chutney Soca Monarch and various members of the present administration have stated directly to me that chutney soca brings no value to Carnival” (emphasis added).

At the same news conference, Singh said that the Government had approved a budget of TT $146 million to the National Carnival Commission (NCC).

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“I think this administration is hell-bent on seeing that it [chutney soca] has no place in Carnival. It is a slap in the face to Indo-Caribbean entertainment,” he said.

Singh’s outburst was a public exposé of what the Indo-Trinidadian (Indian) community had always known i.e. Indian culture (e.g. chutney, pichakaree ) is given marginal or no space in “national” and regional shows (e.g. CARIFESTA).

Sing’s rant is more revealing since he has admitted that he has “family ties” to Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi (Express 27/12/17).

Carnival in Trinidad has long been the cultural preservation of the Afro-Trinidadian (African) community. Wikimedia Commons
Carnival in Trinidad has long been the cultural preservation of the Afro-Trinidadian (African) community. Wikimedia Commons

In all his anger, Singh was careful not to confirm what almost every Trinidadian suspected i.e. that Government initially denied him funding because he was allowing Massive to perform his hot chutney hit “Rowlee Mudda Count.”

The satire on Prime Minister Rowley’s mother has been arguably the most controversial song in the history of calypso, soca and chutney in the country.

I have always contended that chutney concerts, competitions, tents and fêtes must be recognised as part of Carnival and must be a given an equitable share of culture funds, media space and stage presence.

Also Read: Western intellectuals’ overwhelming love for Sanskrit literature

My argument is contained in detail in a chapter entitled “Chutney Music in Carnival:

Re-defining National Identity in Trinidad and Tobago” in the book Caribbean Dynamics:

Re-configuring Caribbean Culture (2015). The book is edited by Drs Beatrice Boufoy-Bastick Savrina Chinien and published by Ian Randle in Jamaica.

In the chapter, I discussed how Carnival in Trinidad has long been the cultural preservation of the Afro-Trinidadian (African) community. To this day, the major players and champions of calypso, soca, extempo, steelpan and masquerade, whether in Jouvert (“Jour Ouvert”) or Dimanche Gras, remain participants of African descent.

The emergence of chutney music and artists in 1995 – when Basdeo Panday was elected as the first Indian Prime Minister of T&T – was historic. In 1996, the rendition of Sonny Mann’s runaway hit “Lotay La” by DJs in soca parties, and by steel bands as their Road Mach tune during Carnival signalled the advent of chutney into the national urbanized festival/centre.

Chutney is being strongly influenced by calypso and soca rhythms and dance styles. Wikimedia Commons
Chutney is being strongly influenced by calypso and soca rhythms and dance styles. Wikimedia Commons

In the following years, Indians continued to change the ontology of “the national festival” to the extent that Carnival has to be re-defined to include Chutney Monarch, Chutney Brass, Chutney Soca, Chutney Calypso, Chutney Glow and Chutney Mardi Gras.

For the first time this year, a new chutney show is being introduced to the Carnival calendar. It is the International Chutney Queen Competition to be held on February 2 at Guaracara Park in San Fernando, the second largest city in the country. The event is being hosted by Randy Glasgow Productions.

Also Read: Race as a tool to keep people Divided: Will Science break the Shackles?

Chutney is being strongly influenced by calypso and soca rhythms and dance styles, but the genre is also used as an alternative to the Afro-Creole music formats. There have been two institutionalised chutney calypso theatres: “D” Massive Gosine Roving Calypso/Chutney Tent and the National Chutney Calypso Touring Tent.  Now in its eighth year is the National Carnival Schools Intellectual Chutney Soca Monarch Competition held at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain.

These chutney competitions cum fêtes allow Indians to gain a sense of inclusion in this grand “national” festival, although on the periphery of the capital city. These cultural incursions also allow Indians to actively participate in Carnival without losing their (sense of) ethnic identity.

Dr Kumar Mahabir is an anthropologist who has published 11 books
Dr Kumar Mahabir is an anthropologist who has published 11 books

In 1998, cultural critic Burton Sankeralli wrote: “Indians are claiming Carnival space as Indians…. [and] … The flagship of this Indocentric presence and contestation for space is chutney …” With the re-creation of chutney, Indian artists are refusing to be subjected to silence and invisibility on mainstream radio, television, newspaper and the stage.

Chutney has been able to resist the domination of calypso as the heartbeat of Carnival music. The subversive spirit of calypso and Carnival is perhaps being re-incarnated in chutney.

(Dr Kumar Mahabir is an anthropologist who has published 11 books)