NAIROBI'S MATATU MEN, portrait of a subculture

: wa Mūngai (M.)

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254pp., colour illus., paperback, Contact Zones, Nairobi, 2013

 

A matatu is a privately-owned minibus taxi providing public transport around Nairobi.

"Mbūgua Wa Mūngai provides a detailed analysis of matatu graphics and fashion ... arguing that matatu culture has become a key vehicle to understanding Kenyan society. Rather than standardising and defining one kind of 'Nairobi-ness', he illuminates how matatus offer different experiences through their music and graphics, ranging from a notorious 'bad boy' to religious imagery. Indeed, matatus display different identities that reflect Nairobi’s heterogeneity and commuters can assert their specific identity by entering a specific matatu. With their strategies to counter competition and navigate uncertainty, matatu workers thus also create outlets for the production and consumption of popular culture, where Nairobians express their aspirations and anxieties, make sense of their relationship with Nairobi and reveal frictions and contradictions of life in the city." Celia Breuer, Mail & Guardian

Mbūgua Wa Mūngai is Senior Lecturer and Chairman of the Literature Department at Kenyatta University, Nairobi. He received a Fulbright Research Scholarship at the Center for Folklore Studies, Ohio State University, from 2008-2009.