22 May 2019

Kenya: Author and LGBT Activist Binyavanga Wainaina Dies Aged 48

Photo: Nightscream/Wikimedia
Binyavanga Wainaina.

The 2002 Caine Prize winner for African Writing Kenneth Binyavanga Wainaina is dead.

Wainaina, an acclaimed African literary giant and founder of the Nairobi-based journal Kwani, died on Tuesday night after suffering a stroke at Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi, according to his family.

He is one of the most high-profile individuals to announce their sexuality in Africa having made the bold move in 2014 after publishing an article titled I Am a Homosexual, Mum that got Kenya, Africa and the world talking.

An excerpt from the piece relieved him his closely guarded secret as he let the world know through a re-imagination of his mother’s last days as she lay on her deathbed.

“Never, mum. I did not trust you, mum. And. I. Pulled air hard and balled it down into my navel, and let it out slow and firm, clean and without bumps out of my mouth, loud and clear over a shoulder, into her ear. “I am a homosexual, mum.”

He later tweeted that “I am, for anybody confused or in doubt, a homosexual. Gay, and quite happy,” putting to rest the debate the article stirred.

That same year, Time Magazine named him as one of the “Most Influential People in the World” in its annual TIME 100.

In 2016, he dropped another bombshell: that he was HIV positive!

The prolific author, who was in Germany, used the occasion of the World Aids Day to reveal his status, adding that he was happy.

In his lifetime, Wainaina never shied off controversy and in a in a creative on africasacountry.com, he said he had been a homosexual since when he was aged just five.

“I am five when I close my self into a vague happiness that asks for nothing much from anybody. Absent-minded. Sweet. I am grateful for all love. I give it more than I receive it, often. I can be selfish. I masturbate a lot, and never allow myself to crack and grow my heart. I touch no men. I read books. I love my dad so much, my heart is learning to stretch. I am a homosexual,” he wrote.

In November 2015, he appealed for help after suffering a stroke. He was admitted in the Intensive Care Unit at Karen Hospital and got discharged three weeks later.

And in June 2016, he claimed to have been viciously assaulted by a taxi driver in Berlin, Germany, as a crowd watched while a Daad Fellowship.

His short story Discovering Home he scooped the 2002 Caine Prize for African writing and in 2003 he was given an award by the Kenya Publisher’s Association in recognition of his services to Kenyan literature.

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