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Binyavanga Wainaina Tells Us 'How To Write About Africa'

The Kenyan writer died on Tuesday. Here is his famously sharp-edged essay.
Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina, who died on Tuesday. "How To Write About Africa" is perhaps his most famous essay. "Whichever angle you take," he urged, tongue-in-cheek, "be sure to leave the strong impression that without your intervention and your important book, Africa is doomed." Source: Simon Maina

Editor's note: Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina died on Tuesday, May 22 after an illness. Perhaps his most acclaimed work was the satiric essay "How To Write About Africa," which we are reprinting.

Always use the word 'Africa' or 'Darkness' or 'Safari' in your title. Subtitles may include the words 'Zanzibar,' 'Masai,' 'Zulu,' 'Zambezi,' 'Congo,' 'Nile,' 'Big,' 'Sky,' 'Shadow,' 'Drum,' 'Sun' or 'Bygone.' Also useful are words such as 'Guerrillas,' 'Timeless,' 'Primordial' and 'Tribal.' Note that 'People' means Africans who are not black, while 'The People' means black Africans.

Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.

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