What I have always thought was a sly almost provocateur tilt in her head when posing, or in the way her gaze met the lens of the camera is actually what is so rare to find in the many afro-caribbean entertainers in Paris and France at large. Yet it is simply the mere sense of comfort, yes… comfort… that a woman exudes when perfectly and beautifully in love with herself.
Doris loves her selves not because somebody told her to or because it’s particularly trendy on the gram to say so these days but rather because loving herself came as a result of a personal and highly musical quest for finding and embracing who she called the “stranger’ in her.
Stranger… or perhaps simply estranged Doris comes from near and far. Her father, the mixed son of also mixed parents of French and Cameroonian heritage married a Caribbean woman (Guadeloupe) and together they bore and raised three children in the suburbs of Paris.
“Aussi loin et différent que soit l’autre, l’autre est un autre moi-même.”
(As far and different as the other may be, the other is another me.)
— Christiane Taubira
Doris says it well. Her legacy has the taste of colonialism from all vantage points: the obvious but also those in between. What is it like to be the sum of complex and inextricably woven ties of loyalty, betrayal, love, hate, dissent, fascination, power, subjugation? What words can even accurately begin to describe it? What is it like to carry the contradictions of the building of our current societies?
Her latest album is an ode to the great-grand mother who called for her to re-turn to the village of Nguibassal in central Cameroon. In 2018, when Doris took this leap of faith to pay her respects to the woman who had been whispering to her for so long, she was not aware that she would find more than red soil, palm, and tropical luxuriance, she would also find the pieces of “herstory” that would at long last make her whole.
So many of us in this broad and hazy space referred to as the African diaspora can imagine and relate to what Doris both embodies and attempts at shaping in her daily navigation of this very unstable world of ours. Our conversation took us on a soothing journey that combined remembrance, travel and creativity… the perfect combo for engaging the world both as enlightened and active social actors.
Yes, we talked music, poetry, words, visual brilliance (her videos can be watched over and over without ever feeling like you are doing it because or rather thanks to our current state of confined affairs!)… Yet we also talked about what freedom, self-esteem, and joy can look and feel like for women of color.
Highly educated, an avid reader and always searching for creative inspirations, Doris is not only an amazing conversant, she is also part of a wide community of international Black creators in France who have very consistently supported and elevated her work. Yes there is a vibrant and driven community that exists and that has moved many a conversation, many a project forward and she reiterating the necessary act of community-shaping makes her more than just an entertainer.
And perhaps this is where our (new) strength resides. Reconciling our multiple selves is the task of a lifetime. It requires an acute sense of awareness, a burning desire to become stronger, a wilful disavowal of established rules… It means you are in charge of your freedom, you are in charge of your legacy, you are in charge of (your) Life. What a magnificent lesson, Queen Doris…
“In the long run, the people are our only appeal.
The only ones who can free us are ourselves.”
― Assata Shakur
**Featured Photograph – by Corinne Gabele
For everything Doris, check out her website and incredibly beautiful videos on YouTube. L’Enfant Noire is available on Apple Music, Deezer and SoundCloud.
In our conversation, Doris spoke of many great authors and thinkers whom we can all dig (back) into, especially today. Do indulge…
- Pap Ndiaye’s The Black Condition (La Condition Noire)
- Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye
- Sabine Belliard La Couleur dans la Peau: Ce que voit l’inconscient (in French)
- Camara Laye’s The African Child (L’Enfant Noir)
- Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks
- Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing