Kenyans and writers have come out to give tribute to the writer and gay activist Binyavanga Wainaina who died Tuesday evening from stroke.
Binyavanga, 48 was a force to reckon with, bold and lived his life the best way he knew how. He came out as gay and also revealed his HIV status to all and sundry, a brave move in a country that is considered conservative.
On Twitter and Facebook, Kenyans and especially writers took a moment to honour Binyavanga, saying it was because of his bravery that the literary scene had made the strides it had.
Aleya Kassam, a renown writer and performer who is attending Africa Membrane Festival in Germany said on Twitter that she wouldn’t as an African writer be in the function she was in, were it not for Binyavanga’s “audacious vision” and boldness.
She Tweeted: “Just landed in Germany for the Africa Membrane Festival, to hear the news about Binya. I don’t think I would exist as a writer in this way… Or maybe even be here with other African writers and artists if it wasn’t for Binya’s audacious vision and bold as fuck work.”
She went on: I remember a conversation several years ago with Binya where he talked about how much we as Kenyans have arranged ourselves for others. Our breakfast is continental. Our suits are Italian. Our manners are English. And I love that Binya did not arrange himself. He was who he was.
And it is in his being who he was… Loudly, intensely, unapologetically, that he gave his the biggest gift… A permission to be ourselves. To not arrange. And bend. And fold. Thank you Binya. May you rest.
Writer and creative director @paushinski said he first met Binyavanga at launch of One Day I Will Write About This Place,’ at the Railway Museum.
“He was so gracious, plus he was drunk. He told me, ‘Read the book, then choose to like or hate it, but I won’t take indifference. Don’t do me a favor.’ LEGEND!”
BBC Africa business editor Larry Madowo also had good words to say of Binyavanga.
“Binyavanga Wainaina was the public intellectual we needed but didn’t deserve. The world is worse off today without him to challenge our prejudices & defend the humanity of everyone. And now his watch is ended.”
Writer and blogger Magunga Williams said:
The course that Binyavanga Wainaina set for Kenya’s (and yes, African) literary space! My goodness. Now that is a casket too heavy. He fought hardest at the end. I hope he rests now. I hope he finally breathes.
Oyunga Pala, the former Man Talk column writer and Standard newspaper columnist also remembered his early days meeting Binyavanga, also saying he created a space that other writers could thrive in.
“I remember the early days, from SA to Kwani? open mic at Yaya. Audacity of possibilities. You started something special. You made important contributions to our writing space. You lived your truth. Now go in peace bro. “Binyavanga Wainaina”
Binyavanga will be remembered for a a satirical piece on “How to Write About Africa” which boldly challenged the stereotypes that there are about Africa.
Human rights organisation Amnesty Kenya also paid tribute to the writer.
“We pay tribute to award winning author, Binyavanga Wainaina. A gallant human rights defender who stood up & fought for the dignity & rights of LGBTQ community & others. Rest in power.”
Binyavanga was bold and brave, sharing his life on social media without shame.
When he proposed to his partner in May 2018, he was all happy saying they would wed in South Africa.
“I knelt down and asked my love for his hand in marriage two weeks ago. He said YES. We will be married in South Africa early next year. I am beside myself with excitement that he has agreed to spend the rest of his life with me.”
In 2014, the year he came out as gay, Time Magazine named him as one of the “Most Influential People in the World” in its annual TIME 100.
He suffered stroke in 2015 and announced he was HIV positive on World Aids Day of 2016, that is on December 1.
Binyavanga was the kind of crazy and insanity this world needed. May be rest well.