Eating tagine with Lukas in dappled sunlight: tips for travel writing

Yes, we have room for one more folded sunset, still quite warm, served on the orb

In January 2006, literary journal Granta published an essay by Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina, ‘How To Write About Africa’. At one point, it was the most-forwarded piece in Granta’s history. It also became a personal favourite — satirical literary advice more eloquent (and effective) has been hard to come by.

The origins of the piece were in a long, rambling email that Wainaina had sent to the editor of Granta, responding to its Africa issue, which, in Wainana’s own words, “was populated by every literary bogeyman that Africa has ever known”. He was fed up with banal Western writing about the continent — writing that lapsed into exoticisation, was filled with platitudes, and proceeded as if “Africa and Africans were not part of the conversation.”

Here — in the context of travel writing and blogging in India — I borrow the entirety of Wainaina’s stylistic device but only half his exasperation and almost none of his seriousness or poignant rage. The reader is urged to consume with this disclaimer in mind.