Paying homage to Binyavanga Wainaina

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On 17th June 2019, three major cultural organizations in Germany; Literaturhaus StuttgartInstitut Français and Akademie Schloss Solitude, hosted a four-day international literary festival titled Membrane: African Literatures and Ideas with an objective of exploring ideas about space, futurity, forms of mobility, and boundaries within the context of Africa. In the festival, Kenyan novelist, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, led participants in paying tribute to the late Binyanvanga Wainaina.

The life of Binyanvanga, winner of the prestigious 2002 Caine Prize for African Writing, who passed away on May 21 2019, can hardly be summarized better. Like no other, he shaped and promoted the young generation of African writers - not least, with the publication of the literary magazine Kwani?, which became a springboard for international recognition for many aspiring writers.

His satirical essay "How To Write About Africa" ​​(2005), also published in our 2016 “Perspectives”, caused a sensation. His autobiography "One Day I Will Write About This Place" was published in 2011, and in German translation in 2013. The Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote: "Anyone who has read Wainaina’s memories, who has experienced this relatively young, angry, clear-sighted and very often also wonderfully funny Kenyan, wants a lot more autobiographies from Africa - and much less from gray, old gentlemen from Europe or America."

As the laws against homosexuals were tightened in various African countries in 2014, his private life came into the limelight: He publicized his homosexuality. For the oft-suppressed LGBTIQ community, his coming out has become a platform to defend their rights.