“Castration Rock,” Lukenya, Kenya


Just after christmas in 1957, colonial officers stopped a bus Naomi Kimweli was riding with her family outside Nairobi, Kenya. They separated her from her three children, blindfolded her, beat her, and raped her with a bottle. Nearby they castrated her husband with a pair of pliers. She never saw her children again. That, she tells me, was “the day we were destroyed.”

The abuses were part of a systematic campaign of torture to suppress the Mau Mau uprising. Panicked colonialists detained over one million Kenyans, most of whom had nothing to do with the guerrillas. Naomi did not think the men who abused her would ever be held accountable. But in 2005, researchers uncovered a hidden archive of colonial records in London. Naomi’s story, and thousands of others, found new footing.

In 2012, Naomi and three other Kenyans traveled from their villages to testify in the British High Court on Fleet Street. They were the face of a historic class action lawsuit seeking both a formal apology and reparations for colonial era abuse. Fifty five years after Naomi’s bus was stopped, the British government settled out of court and agreed to compensate 20,000 Kenyans.