Tuesday, July 23, 2019

A Letter from Within


A Letter From Within

Hello there, it has been a long time since we had our small conversation.
I was checking on you to see if you're happy and still do what you love the most in this life.
Do you still smile like you used to do or you're just faking your sweet smile?


Did you find the love you were looking for, or you have just decided to move on?
Is your mom still calling you every morning to see if you're okay? Or she just waits for your call?


Do you still get emotional whenever you see a romantic movie? 
Do you still like to make people happy and help those in need or you have also become heartless like the other people we know?
Do you still cry whenever you feel like everything is not well?
Are you still trying to prove that you can be someone in this world or you're just being you?


Dear, I remember you used to like singing, do you still do it or you're just killing yourself by faking what you really are?
I remember you used to have a lot of dreams, do you still have them or you're just trying to fulfill other people’s dreams?


I know you can be everything you wish for, but please be humble, you don't know how many people you're inspiring.


Honey, please try to find the happiness you deserve, you are too young to be empty because you have a lot of love to give everyone around you.


If I could meet the people who are around you today, I will tell them to love you more than they can cause you deserve it.


It's time for people to pay back even a quarter of what you have given them.
Darling, I know that things will be better and you will be okay, trust me the future is so promising but please don't give up on yourself.


Please remember to pray, because you will get the tranquility you need, please don't be harsh to yourself because it will not take you anywhere.


Poetess, do you still write poems or you have just found another passion?


I remember you used to have friends but I can't remember that you had a best friend. Am I correct?


I know you can be stubborn, but please find friends who will talk good things about you even in your absence.


Do you still stay at home and lie that you're working on something so you will not go out?
Please don't ! 
You should go out have fun with your family and friends. 
Life is meant to be lived, and celebrated.
 It is a short, adventurous journey. 
Live, Love, Learn, Laugh and enjoy the moments.


Sweetheart, please take time to spend with your mother, because she loves you more than anything, please be kind to her. 
She went through a lot to bring the best out of you, so that I would find the you that I know. 
Don't take that sacrifice for granted.


Baby, I know you missed your Dad but it's time to accept that he is gone. 
You should move on and stop waiting, he is not coming back.


I know you and him were very close but please move on, he is gone! 
You will never see him again and remember to pray for him, because he will always be there for you in spirit.


Sweetie, there's a lot of people who love you. 
Please don't push them away, but remember that others will take advantage of you, don't let them do it again.


Soulmate, please don't ever change the beautiful soul you have because this world needs people like you.


Please share this to the people you love maybe they will understand you well. 


I will send another letter next time.


Yours,


Zahara Tunda Within You

Thursday, July 18, 2019

INGOs suffocate Women’s Rights Organizations

INGOs Suffocating Women’s Rights Organizations 

Mwanahamisi 'Mishy' Singano


If you have worked in the development sector, you definitely know what we call International Non-Government Organizations (INGOs). Yes, those organizations with offices in virtually every country. And, for lack of a better word, with head offices ‘abroad’. 

I must say, with all fairness, INGOs have played a critical role in supporting and nurturing local and regional women’s rights organizations, both directly and indirectly. I fondly remember the days when I worked with an INGO in rural Tanzania. My job was, among others, to mobilize women and farmers to form groups that were later transformed into full fledged functioning organizations. I also know there are many local NGOs/Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Community Based Organizations (CBOs) were formed out of the ideas generated in meetings convened by INGOs. But, because INGOs have never really had shortage of praises, let me be the critic, at least for today.

We all know the world is becoming more polarized, with parochial nationalism and protectionism continued to be embraced as the new norm. Most INGOs, with their fast and detailed ‘context analysis’, have opted for localized registration. In other words, they are now registered as national or local NGOs in the countries they operate. By so doing, they are earning legitimacy to operate in local spaces. 

I know, as many of us believe, space is big enough for all of us. There is  or there should be  a place for everyone at table. But the sad truth is that there is a specific number of people who can fit in a specific room where strategic decisions are being made. With their financial muscles and well paid human resources, INGOs are consciously and unconsciously taking over the space used to be occupied by women’s rights organizations. And they are loving it – You can actually see the excitement in their reports splashed with big colorful pictures of their staff posing with decision makers! 

The only time they will desperately look for what they call ‘local’ organizations is when politics hit hard and decisions are made in favor of the unjust. I have seen it in Tanzania, when the government closed doors for pregnant girls out. We heard them saying, ‘local CSOs need to take a lead. I was like how? Taking a lead only when there is a state to fight? Anyway, that is the sad truth, we have to call it out, or live with it. Well, I have decided to call it out.

As the private sector continues to threaten INGOs funding and aggressively challenging their dominant positioning as the sole development agents, most of them have entered in to a new era of what they call ‘demonstrating impact’. This literally means, claiming and over-branding every little support offered to women’s rights and other ‘local’ organizations, killing their sense of agency and visibility. What is more visible the INGOs as sub-donors.

I was actually taken aback two weeks ago when attending the African Unions (AU) pre-summit consultative meeting. As usual, INGOs supported a number of women’s rights organizations to attend the meeting. What was so saddening was not being able to see the names of those women’s rights organizations displayed even in their tables. They all displayed the names of the INGOs that supported them, that is, their placards read that is such and such “INGO delegation”. Their identities were thus merged with, nay, somewhat lost into that of the respective INGOs that funded them.

That was/is a politically incorrect thing to do or be pressured to do, especially in a space like the AU. But INGOs – i.e. the sub-donors -  need those pictures with their logos and names tags to impress their donors. Besides, they are the only ones with AU liaison offices and they have paid for flight tickets, accommodation, and per-diem – so, they should demonstrate results, right? This tendency sustains the cyclic nature of stagnation and invisibility of women’s rights organizations across the continent.

I must also express my frustration on the ‘extractive’ nature of most of the INGOs that continue to turn women’s rights organizations into mere case studies and ‘real life experiences’ sourcing pool. More often than not, they add that one tokenized speaker from local NGOs in the big conferences to ‘demonstrate success’ of the big INGO or bring to life its ‘agenda’. Meanwhile, they continue to steal/extract local knowledge from women’s  rights organizations in the name of consultations, then package it in fancy english and organize a big launch of their reports as if it was theirs. Worse still, they come back to the same women’s rights organizations with a long training agenda, to teach them on their actual lived realities!

Undoubtedly, most of women’s rights organizations still receive their funding from INGOs. However, I have never understood why INGOs are so obsessed with ‘project-nizing women movements. I, for one, have never seen anywhere any proof of the success of ‘project-nizing movements. We all know that movements in general and women movements in particular, by their very nature, are fluid, dynamic, passion-intensive and flexible – they tend to address injustices as they surface. But INGOs, as donors, demands women’s rights organizations and/or movements to have long log-frames and fancy result matrices as requirements for funding. 

I really wonder why technology and all human wisdom have never been able to invent a funding model that works for women’s rights organizations and movements. We deliberately continue to kill their spontaneous agency, turning them into patriarchal, hierarchical organizations implementing linear projects. This is demobilizing.

Probably the only funding invention that we have noticed in the recent past is the ‘consortium model’. While, technically, this is not new, most of the donors seems to put more emphasis on the inclusivity of consortium members. Because of that, the good intention of funders has exposed women’s rights organizations into extreme power imbalance. To be blunt, consortium politics are toxic, but women's rights organizations are in a dire need of funding, so, they have no much option but to join the bandwagon, legitimize the process and deal with the display of power mongering that undermines womens movement building. 

When, finally, these funds are accessed, the emphasis is always on “output and outcome”, with no or little attention to women's rights defender’s “wellbeing”. It is a known fact that most women’s rights activists often risk their lives to do the work they are doing. But they are poorly paid, with minimal or no benefit, because most of the operational costs are kept far away, at the INGOs HQ abroad

I know you know that most women rights organizations operate in poor working conditions that  do not often uphold the same values and principles we are advocating for. Less attention to local’ operation costs has made it virtually impossible for women’s rights organizations to attract and sustain great talents who can deliver those fancy reports required by donors. The emphasis on the local programs and not local operations is to literally tell womens rights defenders who are doing the actual work that they don’t matter, if they want to matter they should join INGOs and work in those shiny offices with competitive salary packages and benefits.

The INGOs is what we call the “necessary evils” as they are needed in local spaces despite the overall harm they cause locally. As they transform themselves to fit into the local and face the current global challenges, they really need to do soul-searching. They ought to invite critical feedback, reassess power dynamics and rework how they use their power and influence to engage in transformative partnership with shared power.

Local and regional women’s rights organizations are not INGOs showcases and spare-parts  they are, or ought be, counterparts.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Chato-The land of cotton, fish, tarmacs, and parks


Chato: The land of cotton, fish, tarmacs, and national parks

Ronald Ndesanjo

For some three years or so now Chato has been all over the news for one reason or the other. But, more importantly, it is President Magufuli’s hometown and, before then, home to a Cabinet Minister in a number of high profile ministries. Just recently there were news that a new national park (Burigi-Chato National Park) has been officiated, repositioning the northwestern town on regional tourism map. No sooner had the news sunk in than were we informed of grand plans to build a big government referral hospital in that part of the country as a move to promote medical tourism in the great lakes region with Tanzania as a leader.
These developments just made it into a series of other big, ambitious plans in the area. Since 2015, for instance, a TZS 39 billion airport has sprung up. It is a Grade 4C airport (aviation experts would know what this means), with the capacity to accommodate a 100-200 passenger jetliner. Businesses, such as banks and hotels, have also opened their braches there. A cargo and passenger terminal at Nyamirembe Port on the southwestern shores of Lake Victoria is receiving a facelift. 
Why Chato? My main argument is that recent progress that we have witnessed in this northwestern town is principally propelled by what I dare call unrealistic driver(s) of economic (and to some extent social) development: patronage politics and regionalism! But a bit about Chato before I delve further into this.
Located along the shores of Lake Victoria in northwestern Tanzania, Chato was originally a division of Biharamulo district in Kagera region up until 2005 when it became a fully-fledged district. In 2012, it was transferred to a newly established region of Geita. It was rumored that the move to a new region was out of efforts to make Chato the regional headquarters of Geita. It apparently lost to a more competitive candidate, Geita district (which itself was cut off from Mwanza region) possibly due to its superior economy, strategic location, and vibrant large scale mining activities.

This move, it is further alleged, came at a cost of other areas’ development; Biharamulo district in particular. Rumors had it that a tarmac (trunk) road project that was meant to link Bukoba with Kahama via Biharamulo town was diverted to run through Chato, bypassing Biharamulo contrary to the ‘original plan’ per political promises made to the wananchi there. But that is history now as all trunk roads in that part of the country are paved.

When one considers the current economic geography of the lake zone region, Chato district is still relatively too isolated to justify the ambitious development priorities it has attracted over the past decade or so. What I mean here is that a place has to have the necessary (and realistic) socio-economic conditions to demonstrate the development pace that we have witnessed in Chato recently. Nevertheless, it enjoyed this advantage in the past. Let me elucidate.
Between the 1980s and 1990s, the economy of Chato flourished due to two main drivers which I deem realistic as opposed to the current ‘politically’ driven one. These included a vibrant peasantry economy with cotton as the main crop and fisheries. At the heart of the cotton value chain that drove the area’s economy was Biharamulo Cooperative Union (1986) Ltd (BCU). Although the cooperative was administratively run from Biharamulo town, the then district’s headquarters, it was in Chato where virtually all the action happened. All the cotton produced in the district from as far as Kalenge, a border ward with Kigoma region, was ferried to Chato Township where BCU had its ginnery for processing.

As the cotton lint was shipped out by water through the Nyamirembe port or road to Mwanza and then by rail to the Dar es Salaam port for exportation, the seeds were pressed to produce cottonseed edible oil by the name ‘CHATO’. Chato ginnery had an embedded oil mill in it that produced the edible oil brand which put Chato on the lake zone’s trading map at that time. It is this cotton boom that kept Chato economically afloat in the two decades; putting money in pockets of thousands of peasants across the district and a handful of locals employed by the BCU ginnery in Chato town. 
The BCU collapsed in 1997-1998 due to a number of factors. These include the hard times that cooperatives all over the country were going through following the introduction of Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs). It was also due to the then ensuing private (ginneries/cotton traders) sector.
  
Another driver of the district’s economy in the same period (1980s and 1990s) was fishing. Up until 1997, when the war broke in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (then Zaire) and three years after the Rwanda genocide, there was a very vibrant fish export business from the Southwestern Lake Victoria zone. Nile perch (smoked, salt-dried and fried) was the main traded species most likely after its numbers significantly rose in Lake Victoria in 1980s.

 Chato town was one of the fish trading centers receiving fish traders from all the way in Rwanda, Burundi and Northeastern DRC. Local traders and fish brokers made quite a fortune those days and the district’s economy was substantially active. However, with the emergence of civil unrest and wars in the Great Lakes region this trade was adversely affected and Chato’s fish economy was never spared.

Reggae legend, Bob Marley, once sang that “when one door is closed, many more is open.” With the two economic pillars falling apart, the son of the land came along; John Pombe Magufuli. After serving as Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Works during his first term (1995-2000) as Member of Parliament for Chato, John Pombe Magufuli (now a PhD and President of Tanzania) was made full minister in the same ministry. This was the second (and last) term of the 3rd phase government under President Benjamin Mkapa. Chato would never be the same again.
It started with tarmac roads as Chato ‘quickly’ got connected to regional/trunk roads network. Some cried foul that ‘the Minister’ was favoring his home place when it came to road projects. Besides, he built quite a reputation at that time for overseeing road projects ‘very well’ in Tanzania. If there is one thing for which President Magufuli will ever be remembered is the enormous work he did in building the longest tarmac road network since Tanzania came into being. 

Back to Chato. The district is now traversed by a tarmac road connecting major urban centers of Mwanza, Geita, Kahama and Bukoba. No doubt, more projects are underway. Even the cotton and the fish could never do to Chato what Dr. John Pombe Magufuli has. It is claimed that even built-up area in Chato (government offices, buildings, etc.) mushroomed during his tenure as MP. 
Fast forward to post 2015 elections, Chato’s development pace has been put on over-drive. As noted above, a lot has been accomplished in a span of four (4) years or so now. Chato may even make it into economic development literature as ‘the best’ model of areas that made progress so fast. Let me reflect a bit further on this.

The justification that we have been given for government’s deliberate move to push development priorities in this part of the country is that they want to promote, or should I say stimulate, the economy there. It is often presented in relation to especially targeting market/trade potential offered by countries in the great lakes region. Chato district/town has been earmarked as the future hub for trade and business in this vast region. 

Not Geita with long-term history of a better performing economy driven by gold mining, among other things. Not Kahama that boasts one of the largest gold reserves and largest (gold) mining investments in the country and second largest trading center after Mwanza. And, of course, not Mwanza that has and still serve as the largest trading center in the whole Lake Zone region of Tanzania. 
I argue that all these places have ‘the right’ economic basis and conditions to sustain the types of development priorities/investments that seem to find only Chato as the most ideal area.

The big question is: Why this extraordinary obsession with Chato?
      
Take tourism, for example. In 2017, the government launched the Resilient Natural Resource Management for Tourism and Growth (REGROW) Project financed, to the tune of US$150 million, by the World Bank to boost tourism in Tanzania’s southern tourism circuit. Just 24 months later, plans to upgrade to National Park status five game reserves of Biharamulo, Burigi, Kimisi, Ibabda, and Rumanyina were approved by the parliament of Tanzania. As I write, Tanzania has, literally, two new National Parks from the upgraded game reserves. 
As it has been noted above, one of these is partly named after Chato. In fact, it is more of a renaming or rebranding as, prior to the upgrading, Burigi-Chato National Park, was known as Burigi Game Reserve, I don’t think Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) has the capacity to handle this additional burden when only the Northern zone parks are actually keeping the rest financially afloat.
  
When one looks at some cabinet ministers, government officers and business (banks, parastatals, etc.) leaders talk about launching this or that program in Chato, leading this or that campaign in Chato, opening this or that business branch in Chato; one can literally see how this is about pleasing and making an impression to the President than socio-economic realities on the ground that should warrant such development and investment priorities by government and businesses. 
One can see how they struggle to marry two incompatible things: their conscious and the reality manifesting before their very eyes. In an economic and socio-political context where, relatively, the President has absolute powers, I don’t know another way one can maintain her/his political career or save his/her business (or a senior position in a public parastatal) from (new) government censorship. We are witnessing some interesting patronage and regional politics here.

Whether the current development momentum ‘demonstrated’ by Chato will be maintained after President Magufuli’s term ends is a paradox. 
My thoughts and prayers are with Chato! 

Fighting Climate Change: An African Feminist Fight

Climate Change fight should be a feminist fight 

Mwanahamisi 'Mishy' Singano

I think, I should start with the disclaimer, I am a feminist, an African feminist to be exact, pledging my allegiance to the African Feminist Charter, which, among things, affirms that women rights are women's rights, no ifs, no buts, no howevers. Unlike some of the other feminisms, African feminism acknowledge Africa's historical colonial realities, hence, our battle is twofold: to detonate patriarchy and dismantle patriarchal capitalism and neoliberalism.

 As an ideology, it engages in the politics of equality of gender and sex in the economic, social, and political arena both within the public and personal spheres. Yes, as feminists we know that before us, there is me; us is a collection of individual selves. Therefore, the rights of ‘me’ should not be lost in the rights of ‘us.’
That being clear, allow me to start with a very common phrase used by virtually all climate change fighters in the African continent, ‘the least responsible are the most impacted.’ While everything said in this phrase is absolutely true, the overemphasis and comfort of basing our entire analysis in this single phrase is pushing us far from understanding the root cause of climate change and climate change crisis. It also limits our scope of critique and activism.

With no doubt, climate change is a direct product of the patriarchal capitalist economic model built on destruction and overexploitation of human and natural resources. The destruction and oppression of women through control of women's body, mind and labor is part and parcel of this process. Capitalism's insatiable thirst to exploit, oppress and accumulate over and over again has gotten us climate change – the environment/nature is doing us a favor to fight the patriarchal capitalist system which, ‘us’, learned human beings with the highest level of intellects have failed to fight. How ironic! 
Under normal circumstances, we should know, by now, that the patriarchal capitalist system ought to be overthrown if we have to fight climate change. But that is not a conversation we are having. The 'us' has chosen to repaint the broken system with nice shining colors  –  the green economy, the blue economy, the black economy on the making and, for sure, the red economy will be inevitable.

 The dazzling painting has led to, among other things, accumulation and privatization of the solutions to fight climate change. I mean, they have created the problems and they are now selling solutions to us. Sadly, while our governments and NGO supporters are screaming loudly for the polluters to pay their fair share in the name of ‘climate finance,’ the capitalists in polluters’ land are working hard to invent all sorts of material solutions; mini-grids, climate resilient seeds, fertilizers, solar, degradable packaging and the list goes on and on. The very finance provided by their government (the responsible) to our government (the impacted) will go back to expand their industries, create jobs, consume more and, of course, destroy environment a bit more. 
These imported material fixes to the complex, systematic, structural and ideological problems have taken us from recognizing climate change as a ‘real problem’ to living ‘climate change crisis/emergence.’ Indeed, we are now dealing with the climate change crisis, which is a manifestation of how broken the system is. Yet the crisis today is fuelled by unequal and unbalanced relations of power. The wealthy and ‘the mighty’ have the means to deal, adopt and mitigate climate change shocks and extreme weather events, the poor and ‘the wretched’ are left to drown, die or tied to vicious cycles of endless poverty and hopelessness. 
Years of climate change resilience failure in most of the African countries has exposed our hypocrisy. We – the people of this continent – have sold our souls to the same colonial masters who chained our ancestors, we have accepted the modes of development which turned us to the ever expanding markets of the colonial master's goods and services, we have embraced development metrics and listings which ignored the difference, wellness and wholeness of the human creature, we signed for electoral democratic ideals which merely grants systematic short-term solutions (within electoral cycle) to long-term problems. 
Well-wishing NGOs and climate change experts continue to tell us that Africans government need to come together and negotiate as one, pretending they don’t know that polluters are equally busy strategizing and financing their narrative to be the only narrative. I guess I should commend the neoliberal machine for its impressive co-option of some of our very own best and brightest who sing polluters’ song in the name of ‘technical expertise.’ I guess I shouldn’t be surprised or expect anything different from what I now find peace in calling a ‘men club’ or ‘old men club,’ to be specific.

 Progressive NGOs and multinationals are now telling us, ‘we know, men and women are impacted differently, we recognize that.’ Really? That should be covered in your ‘feminism for dummies’ course. 
That women and men are impacted different should not be the debate –  we know that. We know women makes the majority of poor - they can’t adapt; we know women don’t own land – they can’t irrigate; we know women are not mobile and as exposed – they can’t access the later technology; we know women are not making decision – they can’t decide which resources should be spent on what; and the list goes on. 

What we should be debating now is how we can carry out the demolition patriarchal capitalism and neoliberalism which have granted hierarchical power, rights and privileges to the ‘almighty few.’ We need to expose the intersectionality of, among others, gender, race, class or status, age, and able-ism in fuelling climate change crises. Importantly, we need take back the ‘right to think’ and embed feminism in our desire to equitable, sustainable and prosperous Africa. 
Patriarchal capitalism has indeed brought to us climate change and climate change crises, inequalities and injustices. The fight against climate change should, therefore, be an anti-capitalist fight. And, for that matter, a feminist one.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

I didn’t know Binyavanga Wainaina but…

I didn’t know Binyavanga Wainaina but…

Ronald B. Ndesanjo

Personally, I didn’t know Kenneth Binyavanga Wainaina (a.k.a Binya) until the sad news about his passing broke. It was on a morning of the 22nd of May while I was attending the 11th annual Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere Intellectual Festival at the University of Dar es Salaam. I hope there will be a Binya’s Festival in the near future.

First, it was through a post of an extract from Binya’s famous essay “How to Write About Africa.” The truth is that I had never read any of Binya’s work till that day. The extract was simply great. I don’t have those fancy words to describe it. All I can I say is this: It moved me! I was awed with the power of imagination that went into that extract. I had not yet read the whole essay remember. There is this other thing they use a lot in literature… yes, satire!

Then, I started seeing condolences pouring. It was in one of those WhatsApp groups to which I am a member. And these were from people in the group that knew Binya or his work or both. My first reaction was how come so great a person with such great works ever existed without my knowing him? As if that were not enough, my next door neighbor - a Kenyan!

 Frantically, I searched the internet to keep up with the pace. Boom! Here came the real thing: Kwani? I quickly made the connection. So, this was the genius behind Kwani? Ah!

I knew Kwani? But never its co-founder. I will introduce one person whom, I guess, was the link between me and Binya's co-creation. This is none other than Yvonne Adhiambo Owour, another great Kenyan writer and winner of the 2003 Caine Prize for African Writing, just a year after Binya scooped the same. 

Between 2009 and 2010, I had the honor of working alongside Yvonne and a handful of other great minds in an ambitious project. The Aga Khan University in Nairobi-Kenya was creating (from scratch) a Faculty of Arts and Sciences in East Africa, more or less like the one in Karachi, Pakistan. We were two broad teams; an academic planning team where I was attached and a facilities planning team. The academic planning team had sub-teams under it.

Yvonne was leading the Digital Expressive and Business Arts (DEBA) team. I was in the Material, Natural and Systems Sciences (MNSS). Well, to cut the long story short, our task was to design what would become an undergraduate degree programs for the university. 

It was during this time that I got the feel of Kwani? Yvonne used to hold weekly sessions where its writers would come and share their works and writing experiences. The idea behind this, I think, was for the work we were doing at the university to get some inspiration from those who have been there and done it.

There were moments when I wondered what a geographer like me was doing with these literature enthusiasts. I don’t know whether it is because of the head of academic planning at that time who always insisted that we worked in sync so that each one knows what the other programs were doing. Or just that I had this deeply engrained appreciation for art, literature, and related genres but had increasingly lost touch with them after being tormented with No Longer at EaseMine Boy and The Great Ponds in secondary school. 

Did I mention that it’s the rubber-stamp-look of Kwani? logo that has always amazed me. I wonder who designed it! The logo aside, the talents these young writers demonstrated was mind-blowing. Some had already published their works and I could tell, then, that it wasn’t piece of cake. I was just coming from my 6 years of university life but had never encountered literature or art professors leading similar initiatives.

That was Binya!

Not long after that I returned home to Tanzania to take up a teaching position at my Alma Mater, the University of Dar es Salaam. The encounter with with Kwani? is an experience I continued to cherish. Reading about how several people knew its cofounder in the wake of Binya's untimely demise, one can’t deny the fact that he was a true generous genius. 

He touched so many people’s lives in so many ways. What I  have really come to admire about him, posthumously, is his daring attitude (if I may thus call it) that demystified literature and art as things of the university. He was, ironically, a typical nonconformist. I think Binya was one of very few people who fully demonstrated to us that you can go extremely contrary to the norms and traditions and still make a huge impact.

Some articles I have read about Binya in mainstream media in the region these two past weeks show how he battled with art and literature barons. Most of them have locked themselves in university departments of arts and literature, publishing houses and the like. Binya proved to us that literature and art is not the thing of the university and academics alone. 

The truth of the matter is that, they - art and literature - have virtually died there - in the ivory towers. Literature departments in several universities in the region, for instance, are mere appendages of education departments just busy preparing literature teachers for secondary schools. Binya brought literature and art into the streets and created space for raw talent mostly those who had never set their feet in the hallowed university halls or any other formal higher learning institutions, for that matter. Nor in Alliance Française, British Council and Goethe Institut located within East Africa.
I am very sure this is how not to write about Binya. But, at least, I made my ignorance about this great child of Africa more precise. His legend will leave on, illuminating our intellectual paths and literary imaginations.

Rest In Power Binyavanga Wainaina!

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