Tributes pour in for Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina

Wednesday May 22 2019

Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina during an interview in Nairobi, Kenya, on January 27, 2014. PHOTO | AFP


Tributes poured in following news of the death of celebrated writer Kenyan Binyavanga Wainaina.

He died on Tuesday night at the age of 48 years following a short illness, local Kenyan media report.

The Nation reported that Kwani Trust Chairman Tom Maliti said the writer died a few minutes past 10pm at a Nairobi hospital.

His brother James told the BBC that: "He passed on last night at a hospital after a period of really fighting. But it is what it is now, we're still trying to come to terms with that."


Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina gives a speech to mark Kwani?'s 10-year anniversary at the Kenyatta University business centre conference room on November 28, 2013. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Following news of his death, fans and friends paid tribute to Binyavanga on Twitter and other social media sites. Celebrated writer Lola Shoneyin posted a photo of her with Binyavanga and tweeted: “Darling Binyavanga, Love you always.”


Some called him the greatest writer, while others appreciated his contribution to the literary scene in Kenya and the world.


A screen grab of a tweet paying tribute to Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina. PHOTO | TWITTER

Kenyan author Joyce Nyairo tweeted: "What immense talent; what an enormous personality; a child of luck who beckoned opportunities like a magnet, Binya leaves an indelible foot-print in the sands of that surge of creativity and production that defined Kenya in the new millennium."

Kenyan writer 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."


A screen grab of a tweet paying tribute to Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina. PHOTO | TWITTER


Binyavanga had not been in good health over the last few years and his family told media that his condition had worsened in the last three months.

In 2015, he suffered a stroke at his home in Kenya and was in and out of the intensive care unit for about three weeks. Kenyans raised money for further treatment after doctors said he had a chronic condition that made him susceptible to strokes.


A screen grab of a tweet paying tribute to Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina. PHOTO | TWITTER

Binyavanga was a celebrated writer, famously known for his works with Kwani?, a literary magazine published in Kenya by the Kwani Trust, which he founded. He mentored many authors through Kwani Trust.

Binyavanga won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2002, and in 2014 he was named among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2014.


A screen grab of a tweet paying tribute to Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina. PHOTO | TWITTER

His works include How to Write About Africa; One Day I Will Write About This Place; I am a homosexual, Mum,among others. His work Discovering Home, first published by Kwani Trust, was also republished in Discovering Home: A selection of writings from the 2002 Caine Prize for African writing.


Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina's book 'How To Write About Africa'. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

He was thrown into the limelight after winning the Caine Prize but was also considered controversial in 2018, making headlines, when he announced he would marry his partner. He was praised for his revelation of his HIV status in December 2016 during World Aids Day, with many people called him brave. Some said he had encouraged them to stop fearing their condition and to be open about their status.