Late Binyavanga Wainaina
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.
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.
Kenyan writer and commentator Nanjala Nyabola said Wainaina had shown Kenyans that literature was not just a way to express oneself – it could also be a valuable career:
“He reopened the possibilities of Kenyan literature,” she told the BBC’s Newsday programme.
Wainaina challenged Kenyans to rethink their negative stereotypes about homosexuality, Nyabola added.
“Inasmuch as homosexuality is illegal in Kenya, there are people who are very comfortable with their identity… but the public space for acceptance and respect has always been lacking and even characterised by violence,” Nyabola said.
“What he said is ‘look I’m here and I’m still the same person that you know and love and respect ‘… I think it’s incredibly powerful,” she added.
Homosexual relations are currently illegal in Kenya but the Supreme Court is due to rule on Friday whether to overturn the law banning them. (BBC)