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….
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.
A Day in the Life of Idi Amin
“When Amin first exploded onto the Nakuru boxing scene people saw a future world champion, ‘Aii Alikuwa kama myama!’ he was like an animal: the discipline of the army added to his natural ferocity to make him unbeatable.”
Binyavanga explores the links, real and imagined, between Uganda and South Asia, boxing and power in this faction…
“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 footbal and politricks behind “the most authentic real black Africanest togo soccer team story”…
Who Invented Truth
“Who invented that piece of nonsense called truth? Tired of truth, I am. And metanarratives and more truth and postcolonies. An intellectual world in which each paper rewrites its own perceptual framework; everybody is represented, nobody is real…. “
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. ..”
‘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).
“There is a problem… Somebody has locked themselves in the toilet. The upstairs bathroom is locked and Frank has disappeared with the keys. There is a small riot at the door, as drunk women with smudged lipstick and crooked wigs bang on the door.”
Binyavanga has to leave home to dis-cover it in this Caine Prize-winning short story publish in Chimurenga Magazine in 2002.
PASS Me the Microphone w/ Phoebe Boswell
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.