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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. 

His tweets ruffled more than a few feathers. {Elnathan John shares a few thoughtful tweets in response HERE.  Obinna Udenwe weighs in HERE. Lauri Kubuitsile also intervenes HERE}

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.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

5 Responses to “Ikhide Versus Binyavanga: The Caine Prize Convo—Cainerversation—Continues” Subscribe

  1. cosmicyoruba October 15, 2014 at 3:58 am #

    I have understood Binyavanga’s point from the get-go, when I read that interview on ThisisAfrica I never expected it to explode like this. I think he had expressed similar opinions before that interview but I’m not so sure. I do agree with Binyavanga in terms of us needing to put more support and highlight home grown collectives.

    I’m still upset that I can’t find as many publications by Kwani? in Nigeria.

  2. Juma Ali October 15, 2014 at 4:09 am #

    Any initiative, prize or workshop that promotes African writing is good and should be supported, whether homegrown or from outside Africa. They should all work in synergy, it shouldn’t be either/or. I think Binyavanga should best direct his energy towards African sponsors to support more homegrown literary initiatives/prizes/workshops. Attacking the attention that Caine Prize is receiving isn’t good–that attention is actually on African writing. Best would be to build Farafina, Cassava Republic etc over time so African literature benefits all round.

  3. Alex October 15, 2014 at 8:01 am #

    In comparing The Caine and the Nigeria Literature prize is Ikhide suggesting that Caine entries are very widely read and not a collection of short stories put out in obscure publications that a less than significant number of readers have ever heard of before, during and after the Caine Award?

    Whatever accounts for the prestige the Caine has with people like Ikhide, I’d say look more to the self-loathing and whiteman’s-ice-always-cooler syndrome.

    The only difference I see is that the Caine is cheaper than that Nigeria prize.


  1. Pius Adesanmi – Guest BlogPost: For Whom is Africa Rising? | Ikhide - October 21, 2014

    […] ways. Where is agency located and enabled in terms of literature as a canonized institution? The recent social media spat between my friends, Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina and Nigerian thinker and literary ‘papa […]

  2. African Literary Prizes, Legitimacy, and the non-African Gaze | Munyori Literary Journal - May 13, 2015

    […] Short Story Prize Summary of the conversation between Ikhide Ikheloa and Binyavanga Wainaina. Luandino […]

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