Saturday, April 08, 2006

jackie kay on meeting her father

I try to think of all my sins. True, there are a lot of them. But the fact that I was born out of wedlock? That is not my sin.

The above is from British poet Jackie Kay's account of meeting her Nigerian father for the first time some three years ago. She's written about the encounter in the new Granta 93 . The theme of this edition is God's Own Countries, and Kay's contribution is published in today's UK Guardian. In it, the poet comes across less upbeat than in a reading last year during which she shared some of her memories of the meeting with her biological father, a man of the cloth with a young wife and children from whom he wanted to hide his famous offspring.

Kay's newly published account recalls parts of something I wrote about her last year - excerpt below:

Born and raised in Scotland by white parents, she met her Nigerian father - a man of the cloth - only two years ago. That meeting has inspired a new collection of poetry, Life Mask. The poet went to Nigeria, hoping to meet her father’s other children "but since I was his past sin", the family reunion never happened. After a prayer session in a hotel lounge, Kay’s father told her: "I am a healer"; she thought: "Well, heal me" - hinting perhaps, at the emotional cost of their unusual relationship. A waitress nearby heard the father and took her chance, telling him she was barren. According to the poet, her father "prayed (for the waitress) and shook her head, told her she’d have a baby by December. ‘Call him Jacob’. " This incident is alluded to in two new poems, Medicine Man and Fertility Mask.

The father is a man of masks for whom the daughter has to wear masks too. Amazingly, Jackie Kay does not seem bitter at the inherent hypocrisy. What comes across is the generous spirit of a poet who insists on seeing her father as a witty, larger than life, almost magical figure. "If you go to Nigeria, you will find more bizarre church groups than anywhere else," she told the audience. On the first meeting: "My dad said, ‘Before I can proceed with this meeting, I have to pray for you.’ That was fine, but it went on for two and half hours! At the end, I had a migraine."

Kay’s father told her about his young wife: "God in His wisdom has provided me with someone of my sex drive." She, in turn, told him about her lesbianism. "Oh, okay, okay; which one of you is a man?" came his response. His attire inspired the poem, A White African Dress. On return to Britain, Kay showed a photograph of him in his majestic Agbada to her white adoptive mother who exclaimed sweetly: "Jesus Christ, where does he get all the regalia?!"

You can read my article in full here.

1 Comments:

Blogger the flying monkeys said...

Typo corrections:

Shows how dangerous and brain damaging religion can be when taken to its extreme. The irony is he committed the so called sin by leaving his child only to claim that she was in fact the sin since he bacme a god fearing man. Ridiculous. He clearly believes what he is saying is true. Fortunately for her she had the good sense to see it. Others have been unlucky to have this kind of beliefs forced down their throats from day 1. But that’s not to say any body wanting to believe in any god should not. But it’s actually sinful and de-humanising to force your beliefs on somebody else. When u put it in the context of basing wars around it, it becomes even more frightening to cause mass destruction in the name of so called religion. How can he think that even if she accepted Christ, no one will ever see through the obvious that he committed the sin? Just because he's born again, how does that detract from the fact: “he abandoned her”.

11:56 am, April 10, 2006  

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