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‘I feel black, dirty’ – Binyavanga Wainaina describes ‘beating’ by taxi driver in Berlin

Binyavanga Wainaina
One Day I Will Write About This PlaceKwani?How to Write About Africa

 
Binyavanga Wainaina, currently on a prestigious Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (Daad) Fellowship in Berlin, Germany, has written a disturbing account of an alleged assault at the hands of a taxi driver.

The 45-year-old Kenyan writer suffered a stroke last year and had to travel for India for urgent medical treatment. A network of fans a friends raised over R1,1-million to get him there in a fundraising drive, indicating how highly and fondly he and his work are regarded.

Wainaina visited Johannesburg last year, where he delivered a public lecture titled “Being African in the World” and chatted to Books LIVE about what he was reading and writing, and explained why he’s “not the black Franzen from Africa”. His famous 2012 essay “How to Write About Africa”, published on Granta, has become a seminal piece of satirical writing, and the international rights for his next two books were recently snapped up by Penguin Books and Random House.

Wainaina writes on Facebook that he was beaten up on the way to a pharmacy by a taxi driver who became impatient with his halting speech – a consequence of his stroke – with nobody willing to come to his aid.

“I feel black, dirty,” he says. “I feel as if this kind of thing is supposed to happen to somebody like me.”

Read Wainaina’s post, as shared publicly on Facebook:

Berlin chronicles. Am in Berlin as one of the writers on a Daad Fellowship. This is one of the most prestigious fellowships in the world. Berlin is a city of bikes. I live in Charlottenburg. You don’t see black people in Charlottenburg. Today I was out shopping on my bike. I came out of Peek and Somethingburg all excited because I am off to dar es salaam tonight to see my in-love. Anyway am busy rushing about. My gorgeous apartment is a mess. Anyway, I am walking as carelessly as usual heading to unlock my bike when i see her – a black woman looking at me. She says, “I saw you the other day, cycling carelessly, on Saturday we buried 4 Ghanaians. They kill you just like that you are nothing to them. Me – you cant see me on bicycle – they are supposed to remain 4 metres from you, but they don’t. They kill you.” I don’t need a degree to say she meant Germans. But I am careless, and Berlin is a city designed for careless people. Except her – and I suspect they are many others like her. Anyway, I left her carelessly and rushed home, put my new clothes on top of my suitcase – and called a cab. I had finished my prescription medication the day before so I had called the cab company I like because they don’t mind that I don’t speak German and – since my stroke I have a few speech defects – I mangle 22 … Stuttgarter Platz … and they don’t mind. The cab was waiting. I got in, sat down carelessly and started to look for the address for where was going on my phone. And the website of the clinic I was going to was one of those that maybe don’t fit a phone so well. Anyway it took a long for me to get the address. Clearly the taxi driver was not a patient guy. He asked me several times to hurry it, but si the meter is running, and I am paying him? So he gets out of the car and comes across to my side, and opens the door. I am clueless what is going on because he is beating me, my bag is on the ground, we scuffle but he is stronger, I am crying now. Loud. In front of my neighbours, it is five-ish, the lady at the shop who makes it a point never to say hello to me is relishing everything, nobody comes to my aid. I feel black, dirty. I feel as if this kind of thing is supposed to happen to somebody like me. Am in Zurich writing this, on my way to see my in-love

Follow Binyavanga Wainaina on Facebook here

 
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Image courtesy of TIME/Basso Cannarsa—LUZ/Redux

 

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