Nairobi’s Matatu Culture

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Flamboyant coaches also known as “matatus” flood the streets of Nairobi blasting loud music as they maneuver through traffic. This is something Kenyans are used to as part of the now famous Matatu Culture. Matatu is a Swahili word for “three”, coined in the ‘70s in an era where people used to pay three pennies to travel within the country. Matatus have revolutionized public transport in Kenya from a mere means of transport to an expression of art.

Moving Museums

Every one of these matatus is more exuberant than the next. Complete with graffiti style artwork, fashionable designs, flat screen TVs, and music systems for entertainment and the glitz and glamour. These “moving museums” are crowd magnets. They are affordable, suitable, and practical. They have been known to be a bit chaotic from time to time and have been associated with dangerous driving habits and criminal gangs. However, matatus are the preferred mode of transport for most Kenyans.

Fearce Competition

In the recent past, the culture is increasingly being threatened by bans and the introduction of new modes of transport. This has led to one Brian Wanyama to form Matwana Matatu Culture to document these moving pieces of art on his blog and social media platforms. He maintains that they represent the urban culture of the city. “It’s something that is in our blood, nobody can say that they haven’t boarded a matatu,” he says, “When you see the matatus and the art, you really understand Nairobi because Nairobi is a city that is run by the youth.”

Matatus feature a myriad of design from influential rap stars, to pop stars, celebrities, athletes, religious leaders, and famous politicians. In this urban jungle, the hottest matatus win the day. Customers seek vehicles with sleek paint jobs, flashy lights, free WIFI services, and entertainment. Due to this, owners have to part with upwards of $20,000 for construction and customization of their vehicles. “I see art I don’t see cars,” Brian remarks. “When you come here you get to see artistry,” and that is what matatu culture is all about.

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One Thought to “Nairobi’s Matatu Culture”

  1. Bardzo lubię tę stronę, dodana do zakładek.

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