Binyavanga Wainaina: Kenyan author and gay rights activist dies


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Prize-winning Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina has died after a short illness at the age of 48.

He won the Caine Prize for African writing in 2002 and was best known around the world for his satirical essay How to Write About Africa.

Wainaina was also named among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2014 for his gay rights activism.

He “demystified and humanized homosexuality” author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote at the time.

Wainaina was one of the first high-profile Kenyans to openly declare he was gay and “he felt an obligation to chip away at the shame” that people felt about being gay, Adichie added.

Last year he announced plans to marry his long-time partner at a wedding in South Africa. The announcement divided opinion in Kenya where homosexual acts are illegal.

He suffered a stroke in 2015.

Five quotes from How to Write About Africa:

  • Treat Africa as if it were one country
  • Mention near the beginning how much you love Africa, how you fell in love with the place and can’t live without her
  • Be sure to leave the strong impression that without your intervention and your important book, Africa is doomed
  • Your African characters may include naked warriors, loyal servants, diviners and seers, ancient wise men living in hermitic splendour. Or corrupt politicians, inept polygamous travel-guides, and prostitutes you have slept with
  • Readers will be put off if you don’t mention the light in Africa. And sunsets, the African sunset is a must. It is always big and red. There is always a big sky

His brother James Wainaina told the BBC that his family wants to celebrate his life.

“We are in a life celebration mood, we’re looking at this from a human level; it’s a human story.

“Allow that humanness to shine, people are hurting,” he said.

Tributes have been pouring in on Twitter:



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