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RIP Binyavanga Wainaina

If words, in English, arranged on the page have the power to control my body in this world, this sound and language can close its folds, like a fan, and I will slide into its world, where things are arranged differently.”

One Day I Will Write About This Place

Binyavanga Wainaina was a friend, a Chimurenga founding father, an award winning writer, author, journalist, chef, lover, a literary revolutionary and an inspiration. His his acclaimed work includes the book, One Day I Will Write About This Place, as well as the iconic essays, “How to write about Africa” and “I am a homosexual, mum”. After founding and running Kwani?, a groundbreaking literary magazine in Kenya, Binyavanga Wainaina taught at Williams College, Union College, and the Farafina Creative Writing Workshop, served as the Director of the Chinua Achebe Centre at Bard College, and received numerous honours and fellowships, including from the Lannan Foundation and Africa’s Out!

After surviving a series of strokes, Binyavanga Wainaina passed away in Nairobi at 10 pm on the 21st of May, 2019.

Binj you are missed, mourned and celebrated!

We pay tribute through his own words published over the last 17 years on our pages.

Nothing was impossible for a writer like him

“He was generous to a fault with so many artists, not only writers. He would champion someone’s work both artistically and practically in incredible ways…. He also not only instinctively understood how narrative worked, but more importantly, he had an unfailing knack for understanding the person who was writing it and how they could improve on a piece…. And yet for all his kindness, his aesthetic standard was so fixed that he would never compromise.”

Kwani? and Chimurenga Chronic editor Billy Kahora remembers his years working with Binj.

I am a homosexual, Mum by Binyavanga Wainaina

“Mum. I will say. Muum? I will say…. Nobody, nobody, ever in my life has heard this. Never, mum….”
In this “lost chapter” from his memoire, One Day I Will Write About This Place, Binyavanga imagines coming out to his late mother. 

It’s only a matter of acceleration now

“This is how the earth is arranged, or this is how the kora arranged and made the universe, and songs of numbers and words made souls…. Are you ready to interview Youssou N’Dour?”
Binyavanga meets Youssou N’Dour in Dakar, learns to swim in the Atlantic and runs into a foul-mouthed Neneh Cherry…. 

Honouring Somaliness

Binyavanga and Diriye Osman sit down in south London to speak of honouring Somaliness, navigating the globe as a homeless writer, freedom and love. A short film by Bahareh Hosseini. 

Search Sweet Country

“There’s a sense that this a very angry book: at once infatuated with Accra and everything about it and at once furious at it; at once wanting it to shake itself out of its lethargy; and at once terrified that once the lethargy goes their Accra will be gone.”
In his first novel, and in conversation with Binyavanga, Kojo Laing talks to a future Ghana by exposing its present, full of the jargons and certainties of one dimensional nation building.

The Most Authentic Real Black Africanest Togo Soccer team Story

“He has had good fortune on his side: his younger brother Rock, the rebellious one, who was once a former parachute commandant, is in charge of Togolese football, and amidst all the unrest he delivered to Faure the best gift his family has received since his father took over the government in 1967.”
Binyavanga writes the futbol and politricks behind Togo qualifying for the World Cup…

Dear Dr. Schwab, Queen of Jordan

“I received your nomination letter over a week ago, and have been, until today, at a loss as to what to do with it. ..”

Binyavanga responds to an invitation to participate in Young Global Leaders 2007 from Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder & Executive Chairman World Economic Forum & Queen Rania of Jordan.

‘Hell In Bed With Ms Preprah’ 

“I washa-ed some lingala music, you know, so we could groove a little. He starts to say this African music is beautiful ba-aby. Ati-Lingala! Ati-beautiful! It’s like he wanted to be us, and the way us we always just dream of being an Afro-American!”
Binya charts the aesthetics of black hair, beership and Rumba, via the Atlantic passage in this excerpt from a story published in Chimurenga 3: “Biko in Parliament” (November 2002).

PASS Me the Microphone w/ Phoebe Boswell

Stories and sounds from the Swahili coast… sampling Binyavanga Wainaina’s “How to Write about Africa.”

Where is this Place 

“How might one engage this turn to sound as suture or ‘vernacular glue’? More broadly, how does sound function in One Day? It is a work suffused by sound, often confounding the line between the written and the aural. Listen…” Keguro Macharia does a close listening to One Day I Will Write About This Place. 

NEW ISSUE OF CHRONIC: WHO KILLED KABILA – OUT NOW!

Who killed Kabila? The new issue of the Chronic presents this query as the starting point for an in-depth investigation into power, territory and the creative imagination by writers from the Congo and other countries involved in the conflict.

8 years after the assassination of Laurent-Désiré Kabila, rumours still proliferate. But who killed Kabila is no mystery. It is not A or B or C. But rather A and B and C. All options are both true and necessary – it’s the coming together of all these individuals, groups and circumstances, on one day, within the proliferating course of the history, that does it.

Telling this story then, isn’t merely a matter of presenting multiple perspectives but rather of finding a medium able to capture the radical singularity of the event in its totality, including each singular, sometimes fantastical, historical fact, rumour or suspicion. We’ve heard plenty about the danger of the single story – in this issue we explore its power. 

The issue proposes music as the context, the paradigm for the writing. The single story we write borrows from the sebene – the upbeat, mostly instrumental part of Congolese rumba famously established by Franco (Luambo Makiadi).

Similarly, to follow Ousmane Sembene’s method of using multi-location and polyphony as decolonial narrative tools, we invited writers from the countries directly involved and implicated in the events surrounding Kabila’s death (DR Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Angola, and a de-territorialised entity called AFDL) to write one story: the assassination of Kabila.

THIS EDITION OF THE CHIMURENGA CHRONIC IS CONCEIVED AS A SEBENE OF THE CONGOLESE RUMBA – ENJOY THE DANCE!

Who Kill Kabila CAST

The cast list of actors and character who make an appearance in the issue includes everyone from Cuban revolutionary leader Ché Guevara and psychiatrist, political theorist and freedom fighter, Frantz Fanon, to Rashidi Muzele, the assassin who pulled the trigger; UNITA Leader Jonas Savimbi, as well as Angolan art collector and businessman Sindika Dokolo; to Zimbabwean businessman Billy Rautenbach, and Larry Devlin, a CIA field officer stationed for many years in Africa; as well as Grand Maître of Congolese modern music Franco, Congolese dancer and choreographer based, Faustin Linyekula and many, many, many more.

Who Kill Kabila

We tune into radio trottoir, radio one battery, radio 33, boca boca to get the word on the street from Angola.

For more songs, stories, rumours and anecdotes from politicians of the pavements, barstool historians, ex-army generals, bootlickers and braggarts and informants, mercenaries and Lebanese diamond diggers and Katanaga Tigers, graduates of École des Ponts Pari Tech, soldiers trained in China, Libya, Sudan, Angola, and Cuba, black devils, Rwandan spies and more, get a copy of the new Chronic.

Sankomota: An Ode in One Album

Please join us for the book launch of ‘Sankomota: An Ode in One Album‘ happening next Friday 31 May at Chimurenga Factory (157 Victoria Road, Woodstock, Cape Town) from 5:30pm. The session will be led by Sabelo Mcinziba in conversation with the author Phehello Mofokeng. The book will be on sale during the event. 

THE BLACK BOMB

Mamadou Diallo channels Carlos Moore, the exiled Cuban who traversed most of Africa and its diaspora, and, along the way, the lives of some of the most revolutionary thinkers the continent has produced. Moore’s special relationship with Cheikh Anta Diop and their foremost, but failed collaboration to launch an organization of scientists of the black world are the focus of this extraordinary account.


In the Den of the Alchemist

Cheikh Anta Diop spent much of his life in academic exile pitted against his political detractors and consequently persecuted by the academy. ‘Exit the pharaoh’ to the Centre of Low Nuclear Energies of the Institut Fondamental d’Afrique Noire (IFAN), better known as the Laboratory of Carbon 14—no ordinary laboratory—the ‘demiurge’ for a new world view, a ‘new African’ conscious and embracing of the genius of the ancestors in all domains of science, culture and religion. Souleymane Bachir Diagne enters the legendary cave. 

Speech to the Science Graduation Ceremony of the University of Witwatersrand, 2008

“At the age of seventeen I was in the South African Army. I was on guard at the huge Lenz ammunition dump. I saw something which told me that the Apartheid state was getting involved with nuclear weapons. For the rest of my life I was hunting the Apartheid nuclear bombs…” Renfrew Christie makes an argument against the “white bomb”.


Searching for Augusto Zita

From the Namib desert to an interrogation room on US soil, Victor Gama tracks Augusto Zita and inadvertently uncovers South Africa’s nuclear weapons programme.

“’In his research approach, Professor Augusto used both scientific and non-scientific methods, such as divination systems and ritualistic processes that stemmed from indigenous knowledge systems…’

The officer looked up. ‘Indigenous knowledge systems?’

‘Uh yes, knowledge systems. For example, one such system consisted in analysing the leaves of a plant in the desert known as Welwichia Mirabilis. Another consisted in dragging a stick along the desert, in concentric circles, while recording its sound.’

I realised how crazy this must sound and quickly added, ‘These systems were derived from the animist beliefs that plants, animals and even rocks are imbued with a spiritual substance and, therefore are alive and able to be used as witnesses to events in the past. That’s all really. His field research was interrupted by his sudden death in a suspicious car accident on that same road, in 1987.’

As soon as I paused he broke in, “Suspicious – in what way?”

“Suspicious as in… unexplained, unexpected.”

FESTAC BOOK AND LP ON THE WAY 

Early in 1977, thousands of artists, writers, musicians, activists and scholars from Africa and the black diaspora assembled in Lagos for FESTAC ’77, the 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture. With a radically ambitious agenda underwritten by Nigeria’s newfound oil wealth, FESTAC ’77 would unfold as a complex, glorious and excessive culmination of a half-century of transatlantic and pan-Africanist cultural-political gatherings.

Devised by Chimurenga and edited by Ntone Edjabe and Akin Adesokan, this is the first publication to consider FESTAC in all its cultural-historic complexity, addressing the planetary scale of the event alongside the personal and artistic encounters it made possible.

As the tenth title in Afterall’s Exhibition Histories series and the third in Chimurenga’s Chimurenga Library series, the book features a bespoke expanded format and design scheme, and gathers extensive unseen photographic and archival materials, interviews and new commissions by Akin Adesokan, Ugochukwu-Smooth Nzewi, Dominique Malaquais and Elvira Dyangani Ose, among others, and archival texts, materials, images and photographs by Wole Soyinka, Audre Lorde, Allioune Diop, Marilyn Nance, Barkley Hendricks, J.D. Okhai Ojeikere, Betye Saar, Sun Ra and many more.

NO PASS, BUT NINE PASSPORTS

In her 30 years of exile, Miriam Makeba redefined pan Africanism – performing and speaking around the world, informing the Black Power movement, forwarding the liberation struggle and participating in events that shaped public cultures on the continent and around the world.

She was a woman with nine passports and honorary citizenship in 10 countries. But no home.

85 years since her birth, we track her journey in the new Chronic, The African imagination of a borderless world. Get a preview and follow the Life and work of Miriam ‘Mazi’ Makeba in music on the Pan African Space Station.

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