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WORDS TO LIVE BY : BINYAVANGA WAINAINA

Illustration by Sami Chouhdary / Reuters

‘Words to live by’ : is a daily segment by theSystem * that looks into 7 of the most striking comments and quotes by thought leaders in life or otherwise.


Binyavanga Wainaina, one of Kenya’s most famous writers passed away on May 22. In 2002 he won the Caine Prize for African writing.

In 2003 he became the founding editor of African literary magazine, Kwani?, the first literary magazine in east Africa since Transition Magazine. In 2014 Binyavanga was named one of Time magazine’s 100 “Most Influential People in the World”.

Binyavanga influenced many young African writers, and his writings have been praised for invoking fundamental questions about the West’s coverage of Africa, cultural bias, sexuality, and identity.

Here are 7 of the best quotes by Binyavanga :

“All people have dignity. Theres nobody who was born without a soul and a spirit.”

“I believe in, and will to the best of my ability fight for, equal rights and freedom of opinion for everyone, regardless of colour, religion, nationality, orientation – you know the rest.”

“Every human being has a bit of gangster in him.”

“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.”

 “What is astonishing is that globalised technology, like Whatsapp and Viber, really gives a lot of leeway to negotiating spaces and to keeping one’s identity. So people are able to be more receptive as a gay community to be part of an environment that is going to challenge the law. Change is coming much faster than I thought”.

 “Always end your book with Nelson Mandela saying something about rainbows or renaissances. Because you care”

“In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions”

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