Four years ago, Binyavanga Wainaina visited Diriye Osman, the fabulously gay author of the Polaris Award-winning story collection Fairytales for Lost Children and the forthcoming novel We Once Belonged to the Sea. Their encounter, including a beautiful video of them sharing laughter and honesty, was uploaded on Osman’s website in October of last year, and was named in our “79 Notable Pieces of 2017.” The video was shot in a film studio in Clapham, South London, by the acclaimed Iranian director and photographer Bahareh Hosseini. It is everything.
Here is an excerpt from a small note by Osman accompanying the video.
The award-winning Kenyan writer, Binyavanga Wainaina, is many things to many people. For some, including myself, he is simply one of the most imaginative and gifted writers at work today. For others, and again I include myself in this list, he is a pan-African cultural hero, an almost folkloric figure with the capacity to not only constantly surprise his readers, but also inspire collective forward motion. This is no small feat.
Binyavanga Wainaina deploys language like small bombs wrapped in exquisite paper. When he published his landmark satirical essay on how (not) to write about Africa, it felt nothing short of a revolutionary act in a literary landscape where so many Western writers and readers felt compelled to view and present Africa as a ‘dark continent’ devoid of creative thinkers and overflowing with disease and chaotic, inexplicable violence. Wainaina has always waged war against cliché, and in doing so has inspired a generation of emerging African writers like myself to create beyond borders policed both by self and others.
When Wainaina came out as a proud gay man a few years ago, he once again pulverized cultural stereotypes in a graceful, elegant way that made headlines around the world. In person, Wainaina carries himself with confidence, humility and a sense of cheeky joie de vivre.
Read the rest of the note, and watch the video, on Osman’s website.
Graph image: illustration of Binyavanga by Osman.