Binyavanga Wainaina, the internationally renowned writer and activist, whose coming out in sternly anti-LGBT country Kenya cemented his status as the beacon of gay rights in Africa, passed on two days ago, aged 48.
Binya burst into literary prominence with the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2002. He then went on to publish One Day I Will Write About This Place (Graywolf Press) in 2012. One Day I Will Write About This Place, a memoir, which he wrote in striking and spectacularly descriptive language, earned several prestigious recognitions including New York Times Notable Book, New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, and Publishers Weekly Top Ten Book of the Year. Oprah Winfrey also selected One Day I Will Write About This Place for her book club making it an instant bestseller.
This breaks my heart. Binyavanga was the warmest, most generous person I’d ever met. He literally hand sold HERE COMES THE SUN and would constantly check up on me. He was one of those senior writers who genuinely cared about welcoming newbies. May he Rest in Power. 🙏🏾✨💫 https://t.co/yVphWi9Fkt
— Nicole Dennis-Benn (@ndennis_benn) May 22, 2019
As much as Binyavanga Wainana loved to write compelling prose, his passion for building others up also burned bright. He is famously known for his works with Kwani?, a Kenyan literary magazine published by his brainchild Kwani Trust. With Kwani Trust, mentored many writers who have gone on to be celebrated authors.
Binyavanga Wainaina’s celebrated 2005 essay “How to Write About Africa”, was a witty, sarcastic and hilarious lesson to journalists and historians. In it, he called for an upheaval of the too-common clichés and urged for more nuanced reportage and storytelling.
Binyavanga lived and died a beacon of activism to queer people in a hostile Africa. Sadly, he died just days before Kenya’s High Court was expected to deliver a long-awaited ruling on whether to abolish anti-gay laws. Eulogies have poured in from all corners of social media.
This is devastating. We have lost a great writer and person. He was the most audacious writer I know. Kind, sweet, charismatic, honest, blunt and such a biting sense of humor. He always spoke his mind and I’m glad he did. His voice was so necessary. ❤️💐🌈🇰🇪 https://t.co/MNbSgm0uaT
— Nnedi Okorafor, PhD (@Nnedi) May 22, 2019
The BBC just asked me what Binyavanga’s legacy would be. I wish I could have said this more articulately – to me his most important legacy isn’t even the writing per se. It’s that he made room – he published us, invited us into the platforms, shouted down the walls of Jericho.
— Nanjala Nyabola (@Nanjala1) May 22, 2019
“If life was a highway, Wainaina stayed on the fast lane. And when he swerved, he barely stepped on the brakes.”
— BBC News Africa (@BBCAfrica) May 22, 2019
Last time I saw Binyavanga Wainaina was last year at the hearing of #Repeal162 . I have admired his intellect, courage and how he carried all these with such sense of graceful but humbled confidence. Binya, you made your mark! Like you did here, go make heaven a tolerant place. pic.twitter.com/h6wg1SUOce
— waikwa wanyoike (@waikwawanyoike) May 22, 2019
May Binyavanga rest in perfection.