Gay activist and writer Binyavanga Wainaina died on the 22nd of May 2019. Against common practice, the writer was cremated instead of the body being buried. Condolence messages have been sent to family and friends to celebrate a life well lived. As usual, the internet was not without its controversy on the matter as the debate on gay rights came to life once again. All these come at a time when the high court in Kenya declined to declare the banning of gay marriages illegal. It is a fight for another day for the gay community.
Family, friends and fans of the late Binyavanga Wainaina spent their Thursday at the National Museum of Kenya for a memorial ceremony. The accomplished writer passed away last week after a short illness. He will be remembered among other things for revealing that he was HIV positive. He was looking forward to holding a wedding ceremony with his Nigerian lover in South Africa.
Even though gay people are often discriminated and looked down upon, Binyavanga did not let that cloud his ambitions. Against all the odds, he lived a pretty good life and was a role model or a ray of hope for many. Most of his books focused on African issues in the postcolonial era, such as gender and sexuality. One of the books that put him on the map of the literary work is Discovering Home for which he won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2002. Below are photos from Binyavanga Wainaina’s farewell ceremony:
1. Members of the gay community in attendance
Members of the gay community could not miss the chance to give one of their own a well-deserved send-off. Wainaina was at the forefront to fight for their space in this society. Because of this, they turned up in their numbers to give their support to family and friends in giving last respects. In a country where ‘my dress, my choice’ has become a popular slogan, some of the gay community members wore what makes them comfortable as seen in the picture.
2. A summary of the mood at the farewell ceremony
There were many people at the National Museums of Kenya to mourn the departed soul. A sombre mood engulfed the venue as stories were shared about the life of the departed. The listeners were touched by the passing of a man they all respected judging from the photo. Some adorned black outfits typical of burials while others wore clothes of various colours, but everybody was dressed for the occasion.
3. A guest smiles for the camera
Typically, farewell ceremonies are filled with people crying as they mourn the loss of their loved one. However, when life is well lived, people gather to celebrate that life and even sing and dance if the occasion calls for it. This picture reminds us that Binyavanga Wainaina’s live was well-lived and one worth commemorating in happiness. She lit what would have been a dull day, and hopefully, Wainaina will be smiling wherever he is.
READ ALSO: Who is Binyavanga Wainaina?
4. Binyavanga farewell portrait
When you are larger than life, a big portrait at a farewell ceremony should be part of your story. The extra-large black and white portrait shows Binyavanga staring at something with his fists clenched on his chin. Perhaps as a sign that the writer refused to settle for normal, his family selected a photo in which he was dressed casually. Normally, photos used in such events are those in which the deceased in clad in a suit but this case was different.
5. Celebrated in diversity
A bouquet must be present to lighten the mood in any ceremony. The decorations were spot on given the venue for the ceremony was at the National Museums of Kenya. A little controversy wouldn’t miss to remind us of the life the man lived. This particular photo shows us Binyavanga wearing a dress. The writer embraced being liberal minded and empowered people to do what they thought made them happy. The lesson here is for people to accept their real selves and not be ashamed of it.
6. Tribute of a friend
Family sometimes stretches beyond blood relations. It includes those people who are there when you need them. People ready to defend your honour even if it means taking a beating in the process. Binyavanga Wainaina had many of those. Considering that he lived in a society that is not open to the idea of gay and same-sex marriages, it was a bit hard for him. The writer managed to have friends who believed in him and walked with him until his last breath.
7. The mood says it all
Binyavanga Wainaina was a fan of African clothing. It, therefore, was no surprise seeing a majority of those who attended the farewell ceremony wearing Africa themed clothes. Their faces, however, were those of people who had lost a close friend.
8. Dreams in limbo
Binyavanga had one of those eyes that say ‘I mean business!’ The writer achieved a lot in his career but still had big plans. He intended to get married to his lover and relocate to South Africa, but that dream has been robbed by death.
9. Wainaina mourns Wainaina
Among those who attended the farewell ceremony is singer Eric Wainaina. The musician is known for his songs that advocate for peace and unity within Kenya. His messages are meant to encourage people to tolerate one another despite obvious differences because we are one people.
10. More condolence messages
Many Africans want to speak during a farewell ceremony. Certainly, everyone has a story to tell regarding the deceased. While time cannot allow everyone to speak, a few selected individuals are selected to speak on behalf of everyone. From the pictures, it is obvious that tributes were in plenty.
Binyavanga Wainaina made the African continent proud through his literary works. Although he had HIV, he seemed to be in perfect health until his time of passing. May the author rest in eternal peace.