Conversation with Karen Ann King-Aribisala

by Ronnie Uzoigwe

K.K-A: People have their own ideas of what Christianity is…

V: It’s true, they seem to just take the nice, sweet part of it and then forget the other side.

K.K-A: Yes, there is another side, He is to be feared. There is another side… He is ehm, He can kill you to make a life, he can kill you or allow people to die and go through terrible sufferings because what matters to him more is the eternity rather than here and now; when was it? This year, January three members of my family died.

V: I’m sorry, all of them together?

K.K-A: All of them, in a fire. And they all perished. And I had just seen them the year before and one of my uncles, my aunt, their grandson, all of them…

V: Here in Nigeria?

K.K-A: No in America and I just couldn’t understand. But then I was led to the part of the bible where Jesus wept. It’s the shortest phrase in the Bible and em… he wept not because Lazarus had died because after Lazarus died, he waited for like three days before going to resurrect him from the dead. So why did He weep? And I was led to know, the Holy Spirit led me to understand that He wept because of our ignorance that this is such a transitory thing; that life is just a transitory thing… that’s how I understand it. Because otherwise, he would have gone right away to raise him from the dead and another aspect of that was that he said not: “I’m going to raise the dead” but “I am the resurrection and the life,” and that was it. And I was surprised; I didn’t feel any pain. It was really peculiar afterwards. I am not saying that I am not sad, or that I wished that they were not here and so on and so forth but…

V: … Like… ehm, abandoning oneself or I mean, to what God wants?

K.K-A: Yes. He is sovereign, He is sovereign.

V: Okay, of course there are things you really don’t understand; when we talk about it, but then one seems to have some security in that insecurity. I don’t know, you can’t say for sure what God; how he will react, how he will do this or the other but still there is that, ehm, assurance that even though you don’t understand, I understand everything and so that’s why I think for Christians or for those who believe, I think, I mean, it’s difficult to say one believes in God without faith.

K.K-A:… Yes.

V: … and that’s what I’ve found a bit peculiar about what you said actually believing God exists but without faith.

K.K-A: I said that I have gone beyond faith…

V: Okay

K.K-A: … in the sense that, you know, faith is described in the bible as the evidence of things not seen, but I’ve seen him. I haven’t see, him… I haven’t seen a face or anything but I’ve seen him, if you understand what I mean, do you?

V: In a way, you’ve seen him in the sense of things he has done for you.

K.K-A: Yes, emh, miracles, you know, they are supernatural and this is somebody who, he has always believed in God but after that incident I just saw God in action; The thing is that he doesn’t force you, that’s a part of him…

V: A bit difficult to understand…

K.K-A: …hmn, doesn’t force you. He never forces you. He wants a relationship that you will just come to him out of your own heart, you know. That’s what he wants. It’s very strange. And sometimes I wish he would force me. Infact, I know that he does force me when I feel fed up with going to fellowship and so on, you know, I pray, please increase my enthusiasm for, you know, serving him because I’m really bored.

V: (Laughs.)

K.K-A: And he does so, he does so. Help me to love you more or sometimes I feel, Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief.

V: What some people find a bit off-putting at times is when you, I mean, this idea of having so many churches, so many pastors, so many this, so many that… the crime rate and all that remains the same and even is multiplying. This makes one wonder if the spiritual aspect would solve the problem. There has to be an explanation somehow because one would have thought that as the churches multiply, so also those who claim they believe… and therefore actually act according to what they believe; then crime should drop, and these perversities that we were talking about. But it doesn’t seem to be that way.

K.K-A: You don’t think God is doing anything. I think there is always going to be evil and His promise is that there will be trouble. Ehm, you know, there are some wonderful words in Isaiah: and the waters will be high, the fire and so forth but he is going to take you through. There are no promises that there will not be evil, no promises that there will not be trouble. Infact, sometimes, when you give your life to Christ that’s when the wahala starts. And you begin to wonder. My husband, when he was shot, during the robbery, before, prior to being shot. – this is somebody who didn’t go to church or whatever – he heard the voice of God, a real voice, if you see what I mean, and that also gives me confidence, in the sense that he said, he heard God say : “Femi, nothing’s going to happen to you.” Immediately he said that, he was shot. So in fact I’ve started writing this story called “A Bullet” because it’s like a bullet of faith. Infact, immediately God promises one thing, it seems like it has been refuted and contradicted. But it is not so because nothing did happen to him; infact it was the best thing that ever happened to us. The very best thing. Our life just turned right round. Turned right round.

V: Okay, so that’s why you talk about “seeing” not just a business of “I believe” because someone told you and all that.

K.K-A: Yeah. He promises that even if we have a tiny bit of the belief, you want to know, you ask him. You speak, you persist as soon as he sees that you really are interested in it and this is not just you know; a game or anything he will honour that.

V: Then may be… how could one explain then this idea of there being so much crime and people still going to church, and all that … as if people are actually making their own…

K.K-A: Yes…

V: …Christianity,…what is this Christianity?

K.K-A: What is God? Christianity is just a personal relationship with God. And I think a lot of churches, just ehm, I’m not making disparaging remarks, but there is such a temptation to create the type of God you want… So easy, so convenient, you know. A loving forgiving father, which he is. And he also has to discipline at times, he also kills at times…

V: … He is very just… you see that…

K.K-A: He is jealous. He is like a lover, ahm, I don’t know if that would shock you but, I see God as, you know, – all of us – humanity, as being a woman. And God is our bridegroom; who He is just preparing to marry him. You know, having been separated, …he’s just doing everything to prepare us to be the right companion or bride for him. If you read Songs of Solomon, I mean … the language is so passionate: ‘Let him kiss me with the kisses of him mouth,’ I mean, is it not explosive? (She laughs) Just makes you tingle! And to think that God wants our relationships, I hope you are not shocked.

V: No, no (still laughing)

K.K-A: …that you’re understanding what I’m…

V: I think I do, because I mean, I’ve read some of these spiritual writers one of them, I haven’t finished it yet, this one of Theresa of Avila, the way she also talks about it, so passionate. So you wonder (laughs), is she really talking about God? And she is talking about God. Someone you can’t see, someone you can’t… you know,.. and talking about this relationship she precisely talks about what you said about a marriage, that it gets to a point, God actually wants to get married to a soul, you know, so he is preparing it all along and then with that, she even talks about ehm, a relationship like a melting together of both the soul and God himself… Sometimes they really get so high! (laughs) I really wonder how. So I’m not that shocked. I was only trying to see the relationship between all these things and what actually happens ordinarily.

Because you wonder, some people say that if God is really there how can he allow so much evil, so much: for this person to suffer so much and the other one, enjoying it all. It seems as if those hooligans actually have a swell time, you know (laughs).

K.K-A: Yes, yes, and sometimes it seems as if they do ahm,… have a better time…

V: exactly so in a way, it’s also attractive.

K.K-A: Well, it’s meant to be attractive isn’t it?. Doing one of these things but they’re not, in the end…

V: …so what counts actually is the end.

K.K-A: The end, yes. And for him to be… it’s a good and expected end. So that’s how he’s offered it. Providing you want to be a part of his script. The choice…(with an expression that means “is yours”.)

V: So… everything?

K.K-A: Thank you, yeah.

V: I should be thanking you. So I’m going to transcribe but then if I run into…

King-Aribisala now reads one of her unpublished short stories, “A Votre Sevice“, in which a husband’s high-handedness (or “dictatorship”) pushes his wife to adopt a mocking form of servile obedience towards him. The story ends:

“…He would put an end to the throbbing of his wound by adding number 5 to his wife’s behavioural dictates. Number 5 was that he, Alhaji Sahalu, would be willing to dispense with (rules) 1a,b and c as well as 2, 3 and 4 if only… number 5 would heal up his wound forever. Number five, it even rhymed with ‘wife’; and number 5, and here, Alhaji Sahalu rose from his shortened height. Number 5 was the request for his wife’s heart. For his wife to cut two small pieces from her heart and place them inside her knees. The End.”

(In the tape, the short story comes after this last part of the interview, and this last quotation: “He would put… her knees” was not recorded as the tape ended before.) Then she continued:

K.K-A: I am not advocating, I am obviously not advocating disobedience. Ahm… I obey my husband (Interruption, someone opens the door). But I think we both realise, I suggest going back to God. To please him with the law; to… obey him and there is no way really that you can obey those laws without help, supernatural help… And then I think the law was then fulfilled by Jesus… Yes, we have to move away from the letter in the same way with male and female relationship, though should I say husband and wife relationship. You move away from the law in the sense that nothing … against the law. Because for any unit to function, you have to have somebody who is at the top and they have to work together and God himself had made it that the men are the head and at the top. And they have to work together. So it may be hard to swallow and some men do not really fulfill that role, you know. But then the woman is required to be very sensitive to that but the male ego is very frail, very sensitive, I think.

First, it doesn’t have to be war, not war. There’ll be no war in the first instance after talking, discussing things, you know, you see the other side and you work together, for the good of the family and later for the good of the community. You cannot be preached against… you’re either going to have outright rebellion or you know, suffering and resentment which explodes, no matter what… yes. So why not like in that story, (“A Votre Service.”) put your heart. Let’s, let’s respond to the other person with love and then… It doesn’t always work. Sometimes you know, we can respond like that with people and they become even worse. They’re more incensed in that. But with God, still I believe you can overcome, you can work it out.

V: This idea is… I think they get very jittery now talking about men… anything that has to do with women they get scared. I think it’s because they feel threatened especially with the way we’re doing it: sarcastic, caustic and all that. So of course, they almost always come ready to fight. At times, they don’t even want to be involved… maybe they feel the way we are going about it is a bit too confrontational. But from it, the other angle is just… I think any right thinking man would also see a lot of things in that…

K.K-A: The prejudiced person does not lend himself to rationality. That’s why first, you know; sometimes you’ll have to, you have to use different techniques. Sometimes you have to batter things into people; you have to shock them into certain realisations. That’s where a short story comes in handy because you can have certain stories, which will reflect a particular angle; it can be a very militant angle like in that story. Or you can have as I have, other stories in that collection; a softer, more persuasive approach. And again like God. How does God get us to connect to him? With some people like Paul, he just allows… the person… ahm to, you know you’ve been … how can I say it? Just ‘sleep walk’ you know… (she laughs) with other people… like Faulkner says: “the lingering of sleep still…” you know, it depends on the person, the approach you will use. So like I said, having a short story collection enables the writer to use or utilise different approaches, different styles, within the body of the work and one of them would, is bound to work.

V: … to put the heart there…

K.K-A: Oh it’s always good to put your heart – into things like … yes … when we think of something well, with the effect that it has especially coming up with further legislation about how women should write. You know it’s like if it were a white person saying blacks should write in this way… you know, who are you to tell us how we should go about it? About doing things? Why should we not be allowed the freedom of our own expression? Again …if it was within a racist … the thing to do is to connect it like with dictatorship or whatever in that story…

V: … because everyone feels the same way about racism?

K.K-A: Yes… and you know, because our budget even has been withheld by … at certain times, you know, … so that’s why I linked it to him withholding the house money too. He held it up. Thank you for listening.

V… I liked it very much, thanks a lot for reading.


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Seun Badejo January 28, 2011 - 10:19 am

“A collective conciousness, from which we all draw from”

Quite fascinating and thought provoking.

Great interview!

Anonymous May 6, 2005 - 11:10 am

great interview!


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