Indo-Guyanese Women Poets

Who Have We Silenced?

Afro, Indo, and Dougla Feminisms

I would be remiss if not mention the anti-Blackness prevalent in Indo-Caribbean communities in both Guyana and across the diaspora. While the aforementioned Das and Singh have worked to combat the separations between the Afro and Indo communities in Guyana, it is important to read, understand, and amplify the work of these poets in context to the post-independence feminist movements by Afro-Caribbean women. Brinda Mehta writes, 

The pioneering struggles of African women (and their struggles for empowerment even today) serve as a springboard to establish a more complex and diverse network of gender negotiations in Trinidad and Guyana, through an operational grid that is relational rather than oppositional in its strategies...However, within the complexities of Indo- and Afro-Caribbean feminisms, the latter imposed certain themes, objectives and discursive spaces that Indian women found confining, repressive, and culturally inappropriate.

Gabrielle Jamela Hosein, Lisa Outar, and Joy Mahabir have adopted prominent teachings from Rhoda Reddock and Carole Boyce-Davies with my scholarship influenced by Audre Lorde and Syliva Wynter. As simply as Mehta writes, Indo-Caribbean feminisms emerged from the tireless work of Afro-Caribbean women who propelled feminist movements in the Caribbean and made space for other women of color. As Mehta notes, Indian women found Afro-Caribbean feminisms “confining, repressive and culturally inappropriate” leading them to create art and literature that felt representational to them. However, as Indo-Caribbean feminisms were taking shape, there were perpetuations of anti-Black sentiments.

Hosein speaks directly to the prevalence of anti-Blackness in her discussions on Dougla feminisms.  Hosein writes from a deeply personal space, recounting the experiences of her Dougla daughter Ziya, whom she fears will not be accepted as an Indian woman. Dougla, referring to individuals of both Afro and Indo-Caribbean descent, are marginalized in the wider context of Caribbean feminisms because of their mixed-race identity. Due to the stigmas against darker skin and social constructions of Indian purity that dictate what it means to be an “Indian woman,” Dougla women are silenced and consequently removed from Indo-Caribbean feminisms. Articulating Indianness and who can be Indian is a fundamental aspect of Indo-Guyanese feminism, but it is important to realize that the denomination of “Indian” can extend anti-Blackness and colorism, especially for Douglas. 

Moving Forward

As I begin to imagine the future of the Indo-Guyanese literary movement, I hope for a future of published girls, women, and gender non-conforming Indo-Guyanese folx. This, of course, is not a simple ask, but there should be an abundance of literary imaginings and archival resources that leads future researches of this discipline down an easier path. With that being said, Indo-Guyanese feminisms have not been inclusive to all people. It is important to address the anti-Black sentiments of the Indo-Caribbean feminists who began a movement that sought to center their lives and experiences while excluding Afro-Caribbean women. Even more, those who identify as LGBTQIA+ are definitely are not addressed or respected within the confines of early (or even present) Indo-Guyanese feminist movements. While there are Queer Indo-Caribbean poets who are gaining recognition, Indo-Guyanese literary and scholarly texts have yet to address presence and history of the LGBTQIA+ community. 

This page has paths: