Binyavanga Wainaina's most famous quotes

Wednesday May 22 2019

Binyavanga Wainaina reads out a quote from one of his books during an interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP) on January 27, 2014, in Nairobi. PHOTO | SIMON MAINA | AFP


Binyavanga Wainaina, an acclaimed African literary giant who died on Tuesday night, was a wordsmith.

The founder of the Nairobi-based journal Kwani?, died after suffering a stroke, according to his family and sources at his Kwani Trust.

Wainaina’s books, articles, blogpost and other forms of writing had some amazing quotes.

Here are some of them:

1. Kwani?

“When art as an expression starts to appear, without prompting, all over the suburbs and villages of this country, what we are saying is: we are confident enough to create our own living, our own entertainment, our own aesthetic. Such an aesthetic will not be donated to us from the corridors of a university; or from the Ministry of Culture, or by the French Cultural Centre. It will come from the individual creations of a thousand creative people.”


2. One Day I Will Write About This Place

“There is an ache in my chest today, sweet, searching, and painful, like a tongue that is cut and tingles with sweetness and pain after eating a strong pineapple.”

3. The Granta Book of the African Short Story

“Or airport welcoming procedures... Dancing girls in grass skirts singing, 'A-wimbowe, a-wimbowe...' Dancing men singing, 'A-wimbowe, a-wimbowe...' Giant warrior with lion whiskers and shiny black make-up walks on all fours towards clapping German tourists, flexing his muscles and growling, 'A-wimbowe, a-wimbowe...' In the jungle...

4. One Day I Will Write About This Place: A Memoir

“Cloud travel is well and good when you have mastered the landings. I never have. I must live, not dream about living.”

5. Kwani?

“It is a pink and blue feeling, as sharp as clear sky; a slight breeze, and the edges of Lake Nakuru would rise like the ruffle at the edge of a skirt; and I am pockmarked with whole-body pinpricks of potentiality. A stretch of my body would surely stretch as far as the sky. The whole universe poised, and I am the agent of any movement.”

6. One Day I Will Write About This Place: A Memoir

“International correspondents with their long dictaphones, and dirty jeans, and five hundred words before whiskey, are slouched over the red velvet chairs, in the VIP section in the front, looking for the Story: the Most Macheteing Deathest, Most Treasury Corruptest, Most Entrail-Eating Civil Warest, Most Crocodile-Grinning Dictatorest, Most Heart-Wrenching and Genociding Pulitzerest, Most Black Big-Eyed Oxfam Child Starvingest, Most Wild African Savages Having AIDS-Ridden Sexest with Genetically Mutilatedest Girls...The Most Authentic Real Black Africanest story they can find...”

7. Kwani?

“It is an aspect of Kenya I am always acutely aware of - and crave, because I don't have it all. My third language, Gikuyu, is nearly non-existent; I can't speak it. It is a phantom limb...”

8. Binyavanga on why Africa's international image is unfair

“I have learned that I, we, are a dollar-a-day people (which is terrible, they say, because a cow in Japan is worth $9 a day). This means that a Japanese cow would be a middle class Kenyan... a $9-a-day cow from Japan could very well head a humanitarian NGO in Kenya. Massages are very cheap in Nairobi, so the cow would be comfortable.”

9. One Day I Will Write About This Place

“He has money. She will wear the mask he needs.”

10. One Day I Will Write About This Place

“Science is smaller than music, than the patterns of the body; the large confident world of sound and body gathers. If my mind and body are quickening, lagging behind is a rising anxiety of words.”