Binyavanga Wainaina, Kenyan Author and Activist, Dies Aged 48

OBITUARIES, 27 May 2019

Al Jazeera News – TRANSCEND Media Service

Wainaina, winner of the 2002 Caine Prize, passes away at a Nairobi hospital following a short illness.


22 May 2019 – Kenyan author and activist Binyavanga Wainaina has died at the age of 48, the publication he founded announced.

Wainaina, the founder of the literary magazine Kwani, passed away following a short illness, the chairman of the Nairobi-based magazine told The Daily Nation newspaper today.

Tom Maliti said the writer died a few minutes past 10pm (19:00 GMT) on Tuesday at a Nairobi hospital. In November 2015, Wainaina suffered a stroke.

Wainaina had won the Caine Prize for African Writing for his short story Discovering Home in 2002.

Award-winning Kenyan writer and activist Binyavanga Wainaina, once listed as one of Time Magazine’s ‘most influential people’, has passed away.

— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) May 22, 2019

Following the passage of a series of anti-gay laws across Africa in 2014, Wainaina publicly announced that he was gay.

“I am, for anybody confused or in doubt, a homosexual. Gay, and quite happy,” he tweeted.

In December 2016, Wainaina posted on Twitter that he was HIV-positive.

Time Magazine in 2014 included Wainaina in its list of the Most Influential People in the World.

Wainaina’s literary works include How to Write About Africa (2006), One Day I Will Write About This Place: A Memoir (2012) and Nguva Na Nyoka (2016) meaning Sirens and Serpents in Swahili.

Binyavanga Wainaina was never a man restricted to geography.

There is little that irritated him more than the constraining and constrained human imagination. He was Ganesh. He turned boulders into pebbles to walk on for all the writers and would-be writers he encountered, not just Kenyan or African.

He was the advance guard, the elephant that makes pathways through dense thickets for other creatures to follow through. He was so generous in this, creating space for, nurturing, encouraging and guiding those who were compelled by his pied-piper leading.

A man who radiated strength and bravery for others, but who, in order to do that would keep to himself that which most wounded him, all his deepest fears.

He was a wild, gregarious, funny, beautiful man who could take down nations with his scathing wit.

Binyavanga will be remembered for a long, long, long time in a hundred thousand different ways.


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