Kwanini? : How to Write About Africa

by Binyavanga Wainaina

KSh 400

“Describe, in detail, naked breasts (young, old, conservative, recently raped, big, small) or mutilated genitals, or enhanced genitals. Or any kind of genitals. And dead bodies. Or, better, naked dead bodies. And especially rotting naked dead bodies. Remember, any work you submit in which people look filthy and miserable will be referred to as the ‘real Africa’, and you want that on your dust jacket. Do not feel queasy about this: you are trying to help them to get aid from the West. The biggest taboo in writing about Africa is to describe or show dead or suffering white people.”


This sharp-witted essay takes irony to a new level. In How to Write About Africa, Binyavanga Wainaina dissects the African cliches and preconceptions dear to western writers and readers with a ruthless precision. Clever, humurous, and true. Illuminates the many cliches throughout western media’s portrayal of Africa. Namely, that we can sum up these generalities cast blatantly at an entire continent. A must read for anyone who has experienced Africa and/or the literature about it.


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Binyavanga Wainaina

Binyavanga Wainaina (born 1971), is a travel writer, essayist, award winning fiction writer and journalist, and is also the Founding Editor of Kwani?, and one of Africa’s most dynamic literary voices. He is presently the Director of the Chinua Achebe Center for African Writers and Artists at Bard College in New York and as travel writer, has written for The New York Times, National Geographic, Vanity Fair (US), The Mail and Guardian (SA), The East African, among other publications. His landmark essay, How to Write about Africa has been translated into twenty languages and is studied in universities and schools around the world as a foundational text about the perception of Africa in the west. His new Book, One Day I Will Write about This Place is a memoir about his life in Kenya and was first released to great critical and commercial success acclaim in the United States & the UK in 2011.