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Binyavanga Wainaina grew into his own through words

In Summary

• Binyavanga Wainaina’s work was a clear reflection of the man who authored it.

• Two years after his declaration, he made a revelation on December 1, World Aids Day that he was HIV positive and that he was “happy.

Author Binyavanga Wainaina
Author Binyavanga Wainaina
Image: Courtesy

We all adore and love good work. That’s why we are all here appreciating the excellence passed to us by a man who fervently embarked on a journey to make words his fortune. For those who were familiar with Binyavanga Wainaina, he certainly had an impact on lives one way or the other. He delivered art and told relatable stories without actually expecting anything in return.

From Binyavanga’s past days to his final days, the evolution of his existence seemed to lean on openness. He died at 48, and for anyone who cared enough to follow his journey, it felt like he made everyone part of it. There was a point in time when Binyavanga name came up often in the mainstream media, but in the recent days, he had resorted to social media which for him was his other preferred means of communication if not an interview on TV.

Going back to 2003, winning the prestigious Caine Prize for his book “Discovering Home,” would be Binyavanga’s biggest moment ever. He won multiple awards after, but that really didn’t matter as he ventured to incorporate his impeccable skill in shaping the world's ideology. He will be forever remembered for the coruscating sharpness expressed in his satirical piece of work “How To Write About Africa,” which challenged common stereotypes about reporting on African issues.

On January 14, 2014, amidst all odds, Binyavanga came out as gay in a move that could have easily been considered the career kiss of death. It was the fashion in which he conveyed this message that probably left his followers and critics in awe. He publicized the disclosure in a passionate memoir christened “I am a Homosexual, Mum,” terming it as “a lost chapter’ from his earlier work “One Day I will Write About This Place.

Two years after his declaration, he made a revelation on December 1, World Aids Day that he was HIV positive and that he was “happy.” He later reached out for help after suffering a stroke. However, this was never going to stop him from continuing to exist as a passionate campaigner and activist for LGBTQ rights. Social media being his greatest tool of communication he made sure to inform the world any time he felt he needed to.

“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,” he posted on his twitter feed in May 2018.

To enforce his identity, his style, too, had to evolve. He explored his sexuality by cutting down his dreadlocks and changed to brightly dyed mohawks. Often he would be spotted making bold statements by donning conspicuous floral prints of what would pass to be female wear.

Binyavanga Wainaina’s work was a clear reflection of the man who authored it. It was honest-to-goodness, realistic, high-powered, and provocative. He inspired through his writing and helped challenge preconceived notions that hindered equal rights for all. One thing’s for sure, we will continue celebrating the impact every aspect of his life presented to the world, and his legacy will live on.