South African Cultural Observatory

Africa has lost Binyavanga Wainain - His spirit will live on

BY 23.05.19

Prize-winning Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina has died in Nairobi 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.

Last year, Wainaina announced his engagement on Facebook. “I asked my love for his hand in marriage two weeks ago. He said yes, nearly immediately,” he wrote. “Nothing has surprised me more than coming to love this person, who is gentle and has the most gorgeous heart.”

Wainaina’s death comes just days before a long-awaited court ruling in Kenyathis Friday on whether to abolish laws that criminalise homosexual activity. The Kenyan laws, as in many other African countries that outlaw same-sex relations, are vestiges of British colonial rule.

For 17 years, Binyavanga’s name has featured predominantly in the newsreel, for his literary finesse and controversy alike. His death from stroke in Nairobi on Tuesday night brought down the curtains of not just a highly fruitful career in writing, but also on social activism.

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