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Obituary: Life and times of Binyavanga Wainaina



Kenneth Binyavanga Wainaina

Before 2002, the name Binyavanga Wainaina was virtually unheard of outside literary circles. But when his short story Discovering Home clinched the coveted Caine Prize for African Writing that year, the Kenyan author and satirist became a cultural icon celebrated the world over.

For 17 years, Binyavanga’s name has featured predominantly in the newsreel, for his literary finesse and controversy alike. His death from stroke in Nairobi on Tuesday night brought down the curtains of not just a highly fruitful career in writing, but also on social activism.

Born in Nakuru County 1971, Binyavanga studied at Mangu High School and Lenana School in Nairobi. He later joined the University of Nairobi for a degree in Education.

After leaving the University of Transkei in South Africa, where he was studying commerce, Binyavanga freelanced as a food and travel writer for various magazines. His works have also been published by the Guardian, New York Times and the National Geographic.

He founded Kwani? in 2003 as a platform to nurture young East African writers.

He had also featured in the list of TIME’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2014. As his scope of influence grew, the World Economic Forum recognised him as a Young Global Leader in 2007, an award he turned down, saying:

READ ALSO:   TBT Video: The day Binyavanga realised he was gay and why he never attended Church

“… although, like many, I go to sleep at night fantasising about fame, fortune and credibility, the thing that is most valuable in my trade is to try, all the time, to keep myself loose, independent and creative… it would be an act of great fraudulence for me to accept the trite idea that I am ‘going to significantly impact world affairs”.


In 2014, at a time when a heavy tide of anti-gay laws was sweeping across the continent, with most African countries passing laws that clamped down homosexuality, Binyavanga announced that he was gay himself.

This revelation, from a renowned writer, set in motion a sociocultural whirlwind, with the writer at the centre of it.

By coming out to state his sexual orientation, Binyavanga had opened a can of worms and generated a divisive debate on what has always been regarded a taboo subject in the African context.

He published the revelations in a stormy memoir I am a Homosexual, Mum, describing it as “a lost chapter” from his earlier novel One Day I will Write about this Place. From this moment on, Binyavanga emerged as a battle-hardened LGBT activist.

Born a decade after independence, Binyavanga belongs to a generation of writers from the continent who have successfully alienated themselves from the narratives of the struggle for self-rule, historical and cultural conflicts that have often defined works by the older cohort of writers including Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Grace Ogot.

READ ALSO:   TBT Video: The day Binyavanga realised he was gay and why he never attended Church

He is credited with promoting a new dimension of African writing, through his essay How to write about Africa.

His works bore a bare-knuckled approach to sociocultural issues, as Binyavanga sought to debunk the skewed perceptions and portrayal of Africa by the western world.

As such, many literary critics have described him as one of the finest writers of his generation, although his scribal talents that anchored the country on the global literary map have always competed with his activism on LGBT issues.


Mourning his death, prolific researcher and author Joyce Nyairo described Binyavanga as a “child of luck who beckoned opportunities like a magnet”.

“Binya leaves an indelible footprint in the sands of that surge of creativity and production that defined Kenya in the new millennium,” Nyairo said in a tweet. “What immense talent; what an enormous personality.”

For three weeks in 2015, the author was admitted at the Intensive Care Unit at Karen Hospital after suffering stroke that impaired his speech.

In June 2016, Binyavanga narrated in a Facebook post how, after a scuffle, a taxi driver in Berlin assaulted him as his neighbours watched without intervening.

“I feel black, dirty,” he wrote.

During the World’s Aids Day that same year, he revealed that he was living with HIV/AIDS.

READ ALSO:   TBT Video: The day Binyavanga realised he was gay and why he never attended Church

“I am HIV positive and happy. That’s all I can say,” the writer announced.

In May 2018, Binyavanga stirred yet another storm when he announced that he would be wedding his partner after dating for six years.

“I asked my love for his hand in marriage two weeks ago. He said yes, nearly immediately. He is Nigerian. We will be living in South Africa, where he will be studying next year,” he wrote on social media.

The wedding, slated for early this year, had not taken place by the time of his death.


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Patricia Kihoro vows not to work with Nick Mutuma following sexual assault allegations




Musician Patricia Kihoro has said that she will no longer work with Nick Mutuma after sexual assault claims against him resurfaced.

Taking to Twitter, Patricia said she supports calls to boycott the actor and music producer Jaaz Odongo, who was also accused of sexual assault.

“I had started to say something with this tweet but it was difficult to complete for reasons that I’ve been struggling to face, but for now I would like to clearly state that I stand behind the calls to #BoycottNickMutuma and to #BoycottJaazOdongo.

“I will not work with him (Nick), or any other abuser, and will not amplify projects that he or any other abuser is involved in, whether or not I am a part of it. We shot Disconnect before the accusations became public, but what we do now matters,” tweeted Patricia.

According to the singer-cum- actress, she got the conviction to take the stand after having a conversation with Nick, who was initially accused of sexual assault in 2017.

The allegations against him resurfaced after his movie,Sincerely Daisy premiered on Netflix and one Wanjiku Clara tweeted to the streaming service,

“So @netflix do y’all know an actor from Sincerely Daisy has been accused by multiple women of sexual assault?”

READ ALSO:   TBT Video: The day Binyavanga realised he was gay and why he never attended Church

Patricia said that she knew both Nick and his accuser but had distanced herself from the situation, a move she termed ‘cowardly’.

She further apologised to sexual assault victims for her silence on the matter as it indicated complicity.

“I spoke to Nick on Friday last week at length. I should have done so much earlier but because I know both Koome and Nick, to varying degrees personally, I chose to slowly distance myself from the situation.

“This was cowardly and wrong on my part….I gave no consideration to the people actually harmed. I was wrong and I am so sorry to the survivors. I believe you and I’m sorry. And to everyone else in this community, I failed to do my part,” she wrote.

On September 19, Nick was prompted to respond to the allegations in a statement that read in part,

“They have been trying to discredit all my hard work and they have done their best to see that my dreams never come true. I would like to categorically state that I am against any form of abuse against women and I always have been.”

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Kabi Wa Jesus returns car gift because it is too low for Kenyan roads 




Kenyan YouTuber Kabi Wa Jesus has returned his newly acquired Audi A5 car gifted to him by his wife Milly WaJesus on his birthday.

Speaking on their YouTube channel, the social media sensation explained that as much as the car was everything he dreamed of, it became hectic navigating the Kenyan roads because it was too low.

“First of all I want to say a big thank you for the overwhelming support you guys showed us when my love surprised me with this German machine over here and you know I’m super grateful but aki please guys don’t come for me, I’m just saying but this is not to refuse the gift.

“This is it, I wanted this car because it is low, classy-looking and clean and that’s why my love got it. However, my love wanted a Q5 which is like a million bob more. It’s a bigger car, still an Audi but it’s a million bob more and it’s higher.

“So she went ahead and got it for me but after driving it for like four days I felt it’s low to be honest. It doesn’t feel as easy to drive especially on our road. Where we stay is very interior. Now this is what I’m thinking, I’m thinking we add that million bob and upgrade to a bigger car, the Audi Q5,” he said.

READ ALSO:   TBT Video: The day Binyavanga realised he was gay and why he never attended Church

According to Milly WaJesus, her decision to ‘purchase’ the Audi Q5 was because of the roads but since her husband wanted a low car she sacrificed her preference and got him what he wanted.

“So my problem has been this for a long time, Kabi wanted a Mercedes-Benz E-Class then we settled on an Audi, but he wanted a car that was low.

“I kept telling him it’s not about where we live because we can always move if we wanted to but it’s about the roads we have in our country and it is unfortunate that you can’t peacefully have the car you want to have especially if you move a lot,” said Milly.

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‘I told him if you want to commit suicide with drinking, take a rope…’ Othuol Othuol’s father speaks



The father of late comedian Othuol Othuol has moved Kenyans after speaking for the first time following his death.

Othuol’s story was featured on Churchill Show journey series, where his family, close friends and colleagues paid glowing tributes to him.

‘The last time he came home it was January this year. He called me and told me he wanted to come and built his house because everyone was asking him about it,’ his father said.


‘He came home and put up a house which is bigger than mine and promised to build me one once he was done’.

Othuol Othuol was known for his love for alcohol and his father and close friend actress Sandra Dacha confirmed this.

‘We had a lot of problems with his drinking style. An I’d urge young people to tread carefully. People have drunk until they are even 100 or 90 years and are still strong because were cautious but not careless. If you do is carelessly then you become careless with your life,’ he,’ explained.

The bereaved father continued,

‘His drinking was a concern to the family. Whenever he would come home, the whole home would be full…chang’aa (local brew) and other drinks. He arrives in the village in the morning but I’d see him in the night when he is going to sleep. Just from one chang’aa den to another and I could go round making noise nyinyi mnaharibu watoto wa watu but he was a grown-up so hakuna mtu anamuharibu.’

The sad father was fed up with his son’s drinking and tried to warn him but his warnings fell on deaf ears.

‘I called him one day and told him if you want to commit suicide with drinking please tell me and the style you want to take. If you want to commit suicide with drinking carelessly, don’t take time, better take a rope and do it. I’ll come to carry you home,” he recalled.


‘I thought he could go slow… during the time he was diagnosed with TB, I sent a brother to go and take care of him but he said “no this is my hoúse. If you talk about my drinking and the money is mine, then hatutaelewana”.’

The comedian was raised by his father and stepmother.

READ ALSO:   TBT Video: The day Binyavanga realised he was gay and why he never attended Church


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