Moving GRAFFITI & Matatu Taxi Art

For the past 10 years, the Kenyan government had forbidden any external painting on Nairobi’s shared taxis — matatus (Mini vans) — other than a standard yellow stripe.


Standard yellow stripes on matatus

But the Kenyan president has recently given the green light to lifting the ban on matatu art and the battle has begun among drivers to have the best moving graffiti.

Nairobi’s matatus were once famous — or infamous — for their wild driving, loud music and equally loud decor.

mat 2

A matatu with flashing LED lights on the outside.

In 2004, matatu art was banned as part of a government attempt to tame the industry. The ban led to loss of hundreds of jobs among the graffiti artists and driving skills did not improve much,But the vehicles certainly got plainer — until now.

“What we look for, it’s the trending things, like movies, musicians and so on. Sometimes we draw pictures of 50 Cent, because guys out there like 50 Cent. A customer may come and say, ‘I want mine to have a logo of Puma, Facebook, Adidas’ and so on, because it’s what he likes,” says Caleb a paint artist who’s been painting matatus for the past 20years.

mat 3

A new matatu just from the paint shop.

Themes painted on matatus reflect Kenya’s pop culture and with 10,000 matatus operating in Nairobi alone, its no wonder Nairobi is home to the biggest moving canvas and graffiti.

What do you think?

Our Correspondent
Cult Kenya correspondent
Peter - Nairobi

Born in a dusty village along coastal Kenya where only a handful of people had ever seen a car i progressed through my education eventually ending up in "THE CITY" (Nairobi) to study Journalism.I now work with a local media company ...

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Continent: Africa
Capital: Nairobi
Population: 40,046,600
Area: 582,650 km2
Currency: Shilling
Languages: Swahili, English

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