Wambui Otieno shot to national prominence in 1986, when she contested in court the decision by her departed husband S.M. Otieno’s clan, to bury his remains – as the Luo traditions demand.
The landmark case proved to be not just an assault on the patriarchy, but a powerful metaphor for gender equity.
Wambui would pull off another feat in the new century, in 2003, when she married a younger man in the twilight of her life, a ritual that was later solemnized in a church ceremony – once more subverting social strictures that frowned on her rather publicised marriage.
Truly a rebel from the start, her grandfather was the great Waiyaki wa Hinga, who was the first leader to resist the British. And although Wambui’s father was a policeman, he was arrested and detained during the State of Emergency for assisting the Mau Mau movement.
In 1954, a teenage Wambui ran away from home to join the Mau Mau. She served, and momentarily led, one of the spy units within the organisation, as she records in her memoir, Mau Mau’s Daughter: The Life History of Wambui Waiyaki Otieno.
For her growing role at the moment, Wambui Otieno was detained several times, before she was eventually released from the Lamu prison in 1961.
She died in 2011.