Here’s SILAS NYANCHWANI’s beautiful tribute to the late BINYAVANGA WAINAINA that will move you to tears


By SILAS NYANCHWANI.

Look here, guys.
You are born tall. You are born short. You are born dark. You are born light skin. You are born and you can solve math problems. You are born to hate maths. You are born Kamba. You are born Kisii. You are born gay. You are born straight.
Or.
You grow up, you decide what you want.
You can choose to be a writer. You can choose to be an engineer. It boils down to ability.
You grow up and develop tastes and preferences. You lack good taste, you pick Manchester United. Nobody questions. You have no football mind, you pick Chelsea. Less work.
You like your women on the plump side. You like yours on the slim side. You like them darker like me. Maybe you like yellow yellow. You have your own sexual styles that work for you, that may be deemed extreme by others, but you are OK. Can you believe that barely a decade ago, oral sex was not as widespread as it is now in your bedrooms?
Anyway.
Religion-wise, you become Christian, Muslim, animist, agnostic, or even choose to be an atheist. It is still within you, of course, and the environment you grow up in to decide how you want to worship your God.
Simply put, there are things we are born into. And there seems that there are those who are born gay. They are there in every country. I know the bible forbids homosexuality, but Christopher Hitchens (famously atheist), once wondered, "If God so much hates homosexuality, then why did he create so many of them?"
What I am saying, today, we lost one of the most brilliant writers.
I still remember how in Form 2, I saw his photo in the Nation, must have been a Friday or a Monday and he had just won the Cain Prize. It was uplifting because even then, we had hopes that one day, we too will win an award. Elusive for now, but may be one day. He opened way for two more Kenyans, Yvonne Owuor and Okwiri Oduor. He created Kwani? Which for a decade up 2013, or thereabouts was one of the most consistent spaces for the Kenyan and African literati. I mean,Chimamanda Adichie is, because, Binya opened the door for her. Through Binyavanga, we met so many contemporary African writers in Nairobi. Kwani? 2010 and 2012 conferences were something to savour. There were the Kwani? Open Mic's. The Kwani oeuvre is rich and we have him to thank.
If one day, I write a novel (I will), I will credit him as one of my inspirations.
I ran into him a couple of times and I interview him in 2013, for an Indian publication.
Nairobi Cool was to do a special on him on our second Male Voices issue (due out in June), after the indomitable Tony Ontita, but have to make adjustments. I will also upload the footage from the interview, it is a bit on the grainy side, and was shot as an afterthought.
Look out for deep reads about his legacy in a few days' time.
I remember we talked about stuff; from African writers to spirituality, to how the country is run like a plantation.
To me, he was a genius, our own James Baldwin and Oscar Wilde. We are only talking about him, because he stood for something. Most of you don't stand for anything that is why you elect thieves, but his homosexuality is the only thing you can talk about.
Read his works and his interviews. And if his sexuality gets in the way, read what he did before he came out.

The Kenyan DAILY POST
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