Binyavanga Wainaina was honoured at a ceremony at the Story Club Art Cafe in Lilongwe, Malawi on August 24, 2019.
Binyavanga Wainaina shot to continental fame in 2002 when his short story Discovering Home won The Caine Prize for African Writing. He went on to become its most famous winner in the years that followed setting up influential literary journal Kwani? and writing the memoir One Day I Will Write About This Place. The Kenyan writer and activist passed on after a short illness on the night of May 21, 2019.
There have been many events eulogising Binyavanga across the continent and beyond our borders since his passing. On August 24, the Story Club Art Café in Lilongwe hosted an evening in honour of The Binj, as many called him, in an event called “In The Spirit of Binyavanga.” The garden at the arts café had candles lit up all around to signify the life of the writer.
The event’s host Shadreck Chikoti explained that the evening was dubbed “In The Spirit of Binyavanga” to celebrate the Kenyan who was a pioneer in the recent trends in African writing. The action of using his Caine Prize money to set up the Kwani Literary Magazine inspired Chikoti; the Malawian used his Peer Gynt Award prize money to set up the Story Club Art Café.
Apart from a personal testimony from Chikoti, there were readings of the work of Binyavanga from assembled writers and literary enthusiasts. They included Takonda Hauya who read from Caine Prize-winning story Discovering Home, Aaron Mboma who read from the memoir One Day I Will Write About This Place, and Yamikani Chikoti who read from the lost chapter of his memoir I’m A Homosexual Mum.
Poet Chris Msosa also read the poem 48 For Binyavanga shared here with permission;
48 For Binyavanga
Another echoing act
Not of love
But of transition
Into the nether regions
Humanity’s most haunting plays
Are the most haunting
Another 48 sacraments
There should be 48 gun salutes
For this 48 was colourful, brave
Witty and shocking
But we are too ashamed and scared
To discover our otherself
Because this one carried in its body
In its blood
Our very lungs
Our very heart
Our very beliefs
Because this one was unapologetically African
Until it showed us how to love
Apart from the readings guests got to listen videos of Binyavanga Wainaina speaking on various topics.