NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — One of Africa’s best-known authors and gay rights activists, Binyavanga Wainaina, has died at age 48, a colleague and friend said Wednesday.

The Kenyan author died Tuesday night in Nairobi after an illness, Tom Maliti, the chairman of the Kwani Trust which Wainaina founded, told The Associated Press.

Wainaina, who won the 2002 Caine Prize for African Writing, was a key figure in the artistic community who promoted local authors. Friends and supporters in an outpouring of tributes on Wednesday shared his work including his biting essay “How to Write About Africa.”

“Always use the word ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title,” it began. “Subtitles may include the words ‘Zanzibar’, ‘Masai’, ‘Zulu’, ‘Zambezi’, ‘Congo’, ‘Nile’, ‘Big’, ‘Sky’, ‘Shadow’, ‘Drum’, ‘Sun’ or ‘Bygone’,” Wainaina advised in the piece.

It quickly became one of Granta magazine’s best-loved essays, the magazine said Wednesday. “As a student, he sent the magazine a strongly worded letter condemning our 1994 Africa issue,” the magazine tweeted on Wednesday. “His ironic critique was so incisive and true that we published it.” He became a frequent contributor.

Wainaina also helped to create tolerance for the LGBT community by coming out publicly in 2014 as gay in Kenya, a country where laws still criminalize homosexual behavior. He also revealed he was HIV-positive. He published a painfully honest essay online to mark his 43rd birthday.

He said he came out to help preserve his dignity.

“All people have dignity. There’s nobody who was born without a soul and a spirit,” he said, in an interview with The Associated Press in January 2014. “There is nobody who is a beast or an animal, right? Everyone, we, we homosexuals, are people and we need our oxygen to breathe.”

In the interview, Wainaina, who dyed his hair in rainbow colors, lashed out at laws against homosexuality in Nigeria and Uganda. He also criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin, who promoted legislation banning “gay propaganda” aimed at youth.

“I can’t sleep at night because there are people who I may know or who I don’t even know ... who may be dying or being beaten or being tortured right now in a Nigerian cell or three weeks ago in a Ugandan one,” he said.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.