Mr. Kalota—he dead

The man died. Binyavanga says Kalota died of shame. He had the virus, and because stigma is pervasive he was afraid of telling others or even seeking treatment. I imagine Kalota’s shame to be a prison, a solitary confinement, hence the echo of Soyinka. The man died.

Binyavanga says also that he came out because Kalota died. I have not been able to stop thinking about this. I believe the decision to come out was “more” than a shauri ya Mungu after Kalota’s death. Of course it was. Binyavanga has mentioned the goings-on in Uganda and Nigeria among his reasons. But I keep returning to that—this—dead body. Kalota. And perhaps that is because Keguro reminds me that “queer is, above all, an elegiac form, bound to a generation of corpses.”

I am stuck with this—that?—dead body that was mentioned cursorily and then not at all. The dead body many seem to be stepping over and forgetting. I see the trajectories Binyavanga wants his coming out to take—imagination; Africa rising; anti-imperialism—and I raise him Kalota. I do so while borrowing again from Keguro who asks “the man died (every story has two sides: what’s the other side?).” I insist on Kalota because Nduta reminds me that “Kalota died. Kalota dies. Kalota will die.” I come undone at the very thought of the man who died.

I leave my usual concerns aside for a little bit. In the past I have asked that we imagine how the rural queer survives in the absence of whatever slight lubrication the urban might provide as livability, anonymity, gay-friendly clubs, etc. Kalota was, after all, from Kisumu, my hometown, a space I would like to index for its not-Nairobi-ness, even as I refuse fantasies of other spaces as “rural,” knowing only too well the disarticulated ways urbanity manifests—I prefer to think of spaces as either urban or peri-urban. If these have been my concerns before, I set them aside for now, because I would rather hear Kalota speak, even as the man died.

So what is it to be shadowed, and can the shadow speak?

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