I’m loving this back-and-forth taking place on social media over Wainaina Binyavanga’s spiky tweets about the Caine Prize. Not necessarily because of the drama—even though Binyavanga’s irreverent tweets are endlessly entertaining.
What I love is how controversies like these stage opportunities for open and honest dialogue about the things that matter to us all in the community.
Over the weekend, you read Binyavanga’s tweets criticizing the Caine Prize as an over-hyped publicity outfit imposing itself on the African literary scene.
If you haven’t read the tweets that had the African literary twitterati abuzz and upset, click HERE. Trust me, you won’t be sorry.
Here is Nigerian blogger, Ikhide Ikheloa, arguing that Binyavanga’s attacks on the Caine Prize are misguided.
O Beautiful People,
After reading Binyavanga Wainaina‘s expletives-drenched Caine Prize tweets, I’ve decided to stop drinking. Was it not Obierika in Things Fall Apart that cautioned Unoka from drunk tweeting because the gods say Alcohol is the devil?
Ainehi, my one and onle, you did well with this blog post, thank you. I am going to church to pray for Binyavanga, my favorite drama queen needs deliverance.
The Caine Prize is not the African writers’ problem, the white man is not the African’s problem, WE are THE problem! #gimmeabreak
If he is this furious at the Caine Prize what would he say about Nigeria’s disgrace of a prize, the NLNG Prize that just this past week sprayed $100, 000 on Sam Ukala and Isidore Diala for allegedly writing something in obscure dusty places where no real reader goes? #gimmeabreak
I say, Influential thought leaders like Binyavanga must reject a crippling entitlement and privilege culture, the West owes us NOTHING. Accept responsibility for the mess that is your Africa. Stop racing through Western capitals guzzling the white man’s booze, eating his cheese and demanding respect (and money). Fifty years after independence, Nigeria cannot run a half-way decent literary prize and it is the fault of the Caine Prize?#givemeabreak
NLNG spends $1 million annually on a lottery that is now crippling the independence and voice of Nigerian writers, the Caine Prize spends at the most 20% of that I am sure. The NLNG prize is $100,000, the Caine Prize is $10,000. Guess which one is 100 times more prestigious! It is all the white man’s fault! I tire.
The Caine Prize shines where African prizes like the @NGRLit honor the mediocre and irrelevant. Instead of this constant whining, the question folks like Binyavanga and Chimamanda Adichie should be asking is: Why are things the way they are?
We need deep thinking. And action. And cut out the booze.
Binyanvanga responded to attackers a couple of days ago, even sending a few barbs Ikhide’s way.
All in all, these set of tweets are definitely less sensational than those from last week.
His position comes through a bit more clearly than in the initial set of tweets. More than anything else, Binyavanga seems cross about the neglect of literary institutions and markets on the continent. Valid and timely observation! But who should bear the brunt of this neglect? Who should be the target of such a criticism? Caine Prize? The African literary community?
On a lighter note: responding to accusations that the initial set of tweets were drunk-tweets, Binyavanga quips, “I like Scottish whiskey for tweeting.”
Read his most recent sets of tweets and share your thoughts.
African intellectual leader, thinker, Ikhide asks u 2 consider whiskey, drunkeness as his responsible take on the REAL caineversation. cool. — Binyavanga Wainaina (@BinyavangaW) October 12, 2014
We hear bout Facebook posts being the new African literature from those too busy to analyse it seriously. I prefer 2 drink good whiskey. — Binyavanga Wainaina (@BinyavangaW) October 12, 2014
Caine Prize good coz Nigerian Literature Prize Bad is analysis for our future. WOW. — Binyavanga Wainaina (@BinyavangaW) October 12, 2014
To self-deprecate, Ikhide, and play the faux-comical old populist who pays no tax is disingenuous. shrug, Me, Not responsible. — Binyavanga Wainaina (@BinyavangaW) October 12, 2014
I am very happy to be wrong, very sad to be madly angry. very ready to be shamed by a humbling mind, and not populist gossip. — Binyavanga Wainaina (@BinyavangaW) October 12, 2014
My project is flawed, awkward, serious, thought-through and painfully built. As a turning continent should be. — Binyavanga Wainaina (@BinyavangaW) October 12, 2014
Caine Prize can’t do what we all have to, centralise our vision for ourselves to ourselves and the world. — Binyavanga Wainaina (@BinyavangaW) October 12, 2014
I have very little to say about the Caine prize. I have lots to say about what we have chosen to make of ourselves in it. It speaks loud. — Binyavanga Wainaina (@BinyavangaW) October 12, 2014
This is not about a prize. IT is about us, at the time we have too much going for us to be selling our self-esteem short. — Binyavanga Wainaina (@BinyavangaW) October 12, 2014
So many, MANY people who have given up so much to build fragile insutitions, and our literary community gives them no credit. — Binyavanga Wainaina (@BinyavangaW) October 12, 2014
If I shat on Farafina, dead on twitter. Caine! It’s like you butchered -grand-mothers. Lol. — Binyavanga Wainaina (@BinyavangaW) October 12, 2014
Today it was laphriag. I like Scottish whiskey for tweeting. — Binyavanga Wainaina (@BinyavangaW) October 12, 2014
I was shortlisted for the Caine Prize only because me, Chimamanda, Rory Kilela were the ONLY new short stories published! Get real people! — Binyavanga Wainaina (@BinyavangaW) October 13, 2014
grateful colonials receiving un-questioned the certificate of England is wrong. We have a constituency we ignore career-gossisping on FB. — Binyavanga Wainaina (@BinyavangaW) October 13, 2014
This is my final word on the subject. Now I would like to talk about foreplay, and erotic earlobes. — Binyavanga Wainaina (@BinyavangaW) October 13, 2014