Marie-Denise Douyon

Pays d'origine:



Immigration, Histoire des Noirs/Patrimoine africain, Francophonie, Droits de la personne et justice sociale, Expérience des réfugiés


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Marie-Denise Douyon travaille à la Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse du Québec, à Montréal, où elle réside. En 2012-2013, Marie-Denise Douyon a réalisé un documentaire intitulé Raconte-moi... Haïti et Montréal.


Marie-Denise Douyon works at the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse du Québec in Montreal, where she lives. In 2012-2013, Maire-Denise Douyon directed a documentary entitled Raconte-moi… Haïti et Montréal.


Finalement, en début du printemps 2004, je dépoussiérai les souvenirs ensevelis et je fouillai fébrilement, à travers un amoncellement d'images emmagasinées pêle-mêle, quelque part sur le disque dur de mon cerveau. Je déterrai, enfoui dans le tiroir du passé, un dossier étiqueté « EXIl » et datant de plus d'une décennie. Un million de megabytes d'instantanés, numérisés par ma mémoire et agglutinés inconsciemment sur ma rétine relataient, des horreurs de l'incarcération jusqu'au jour de mon arrivée à Montréal.

Les mémos gravures de l'épopée de mon exil demeuraient intacts, cependant les sentiments et les violentes émotions qui jalonnaient ce parcours s'étaient estompés, avec l'érosion des saisons. L'empreinte indélébile de l'horreur s'était atténuée. Seul l'étrange phénomène du dédoublement de l'être résistait aux assauts de l'oubli et l'impression fugace d'être simultanément acteur principal et spectateur de ma propre existence soudainement resurgissait.

Croquis et barbouilles aux reflets vermeils et ardoises coloraient cette fresque, sombre réminiscence aux teintes de l'atrocité. La barre de la création, omniprésente maintenait mon être à flots durant cette traversée et je m'agrippais de toutes mes forces à un bout de fusain, tel un gouvernail d'un navire en péril. Naufragée de l'adversité, j'échouais à la fin de l'hiver 1991 à Montréal, aux mains de secouristes réconfortants, frère, belle sœur, cousins, cousines, tantes et amis.

Mes proches recollaient les morceaux épars de ma personne, me prodiguant avec une infinie tendresse, les premiers soins ; cataplasmes affectifs, attelles juridiques, et emplâtres économiques. Ces derniers déversaient des baumes d'amour et de prévenance en attendant que te temps cautérise les plaies de l'âme.

Mes premiers mois à Montréal se conjuguèrent en un temps incertain et sous le mode du dénuement. Désemparée et privée de ma boussole interne, je me retrouvais sur des rives inconnues, mesurant soudainement, les risques accrus de perdre le nord et de ne jamais retrouver le sud. Pour maintenir le cap de l'espoir, je m'accrochais à mon unique bouée de sauvetage, la peinture. Mes journées s'écoulaient dans un atelier que l'épouse de mon cousin avait généreusement mis à ma disposition. Je peignais inlassablement ces femmes que j'avais côtoyées lors de mon incarcération, dans les geôles sordides de Port-au-Prince. De ces premiers mois d'exil, surgirent des croquis teintés de détresse et de désarroi, personnages à l'iris hagard et aux pupilles voilées de larmes, une sorte de révélation inconsciente.


Marie Denise Douyon, born in Port-au-Prince in 1961, leaves Haiti after being arbitrarily arrested by the military junta in power at the time. Arrested, tortured and incarcerated for a whole month, she is finally released on February 7, 1991, under the general amnesty granted to all Haitian political prisoners, and takes exile in Montreal, Canada.

The first time I tried unveiling the memories of my migrant’s journey, I was overtaken by a strange feeling of nostalgia and anxiety. It was difficult to clear away this memory and I recognize that I, more than once, postponed this necessary but distressing task.

In the early days of the spring of 2004, I finally brought myself to brush away the cobwebs off of my deeply buried memories and feverishly searched through a pile of images stored hodgepodge somewhere in my mind’s hard drive. I dug up, from the bottom of the drawer of my past, a ten-year old file labeled “Exile”. A million megabytes of snapshots, digitized by the conscious mind and unconsciously glued to my retina, recounted the horrors of incarceration until my arrival in Montreal.

The engraved images and scenes of the period preceding my exile remained intact, but the feelings and strong emotions that colored this journey had faded with the passing of the seasons. The indelible imprint of the horror I had known had subsided but strangely enough, the phenomenon of split personalities persisted. A fleeting impression of being at the same time both actor and spectator of my own destiny suddenly resurfaced.

Shades of turquoise and indigo sketches colored this fresco, dark reminiscences of the shades of the atrocity I had lived. With creation omnipresent at the helm, I was kept afloat during this incredibly painful journey and with all my strength I grasped a piece of charcoal, as if it were the rudder of a ship in distress. Shipwrecked by adversity, I landed in Montreal at the end of the winter of 1991, in the comforting arms of compassionate relatives, brother, sister-in-law, cousins, aunts and friends, who, luckily for me, were so willing to provide the first-aid care I badly needed.

My family and close pieced back together the scattered elements of my being, lavishing on me, with infinite tenderness, emotional poultices; legal support pads and economic patches. The balms of love and kindness slowly cauterized the wounds of my soul.

My initial months in Montreal were not only marked by uncertainly, but it seems that this entire period was permeated with a feeling of utter destitution. Distraught and deprived of my internal compass, I found myself traveling on unknown shores and suddenly measuring the heightened physical and emotional distance that separates the north from the south. To maintain my course on hope, I hung on to my only lifeline, PAINTING! I spent my entire days in a studio so generously placed at my disposal by my cousin’s wife, endlessly and tirelessly painting portraits of the women I had encountered in the sordid jails of Port-au-Prince, during my incarceration. In these first months of exile in Montreal, figures full of anguish and confusion were created in pastels, and faces with frantic irises and misty teared pupils were drawn, sketches of unconscious revelation.

Beneficial rays of hope brightened my horizon when official refugee status was granted to me. The mysterious metamorphosis of my self-confidence was taking place, and the too pathetic shell of the survivor was shedding off, little by little. My impatient mind, in a rush to brush off the past, anxious to renew itself and thirsting for new challenges, draws the first guidelines of an identity and a life in process of reconstruction.

To rebuild the scaffold of my evolving self in this new environment, where everything needs to be done, arouses my voraciousness to live and strengthen my faith. I proceed with what appears to be a priority and therefore most urgent: to get a job and to that effect to rewrite my resume. My new goal is to disguise the obvious gaps in the immigrant’s journey so they do not appear to be voids of inaction, and to mask the appearance of inexperience by acquiring, ASAP, new professional skills, and thus to chase away the butterflies of a past much too present.

Then comes the long awaited moment, when from immigrant on reprieve, I acquire the status of citizen. Henceforth, adorned with the armor of citizenship, officially registered, legally recognized as a Canadian citizen, my mind allows my consciousness to start the wonderful journey of hope and dreams.

From 1991 to the present, Marie Dense Douyon has been cultivating her greatest passion, that of artist-painter and has had numerous exhibits in Canada and abroad. She is also, since 1996, a graphic artist for the Quebec Commission of Human Rights. (Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse du Québec).