- Graff Matwana, real name Brian Wanyama, is the CEO and Founder of ‘Matwana Culture
- He is behind the graffiti on UK Commission Diplomatic vans
As the world anticipates the royal visit of King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla to Kenya from October 31 to November 3, an unusual and vibrant initiative has taken shape, merging the traditional pomp of diplomatic visits with the vibrant street culture of Kenyan Matatus.
The UK High Commission in Kenya has embarked on a remarkable journey, partnering with renowned graffiti artists to transform its fleet of vans into colorful spectacles that pay homage to Nairobi’s iconic Matatu culture.
Graff Matwana, a celebrated graffiti artist and the CEO and Founder of ‘Matwana Culture,’ was the artistic mind behind this project.
The Matatu culture, characterized by elaborately decorated minivans that crisscross the bustling streets of Nairobi, holds a special place in the hearts of Kenyans.
Matatus are not merely modes of transportation but are vivid expressions of Kenyan identity and urban life.
It’s a culture that celebrates art, music, and a unique blend of tradition and modernity.
For Graff Matwana and his team of artists, collaborating with the UK High Commission was a unique honor.
This initiative represents a departure from the traditional and formal image associated with diplomatic vehicles, replacing it with a refreshing blend of cultural exchange and artistic expression.
The Matatus have been transformed into varicolored canvases that incorporate custom U.K. airbrush flags, digital printouts, and vinyl decals.
These designs not only pay homage to British culture but also include iconic Kenyan symbols like Eliud Kipchoge, the legendary marathoner, and Kenya’s rich wildlife.
The creative process didn’t stop there. Some Matatus have gone a step further to feature the images of the King of England and Queen Camilla, adding a regal touch to the rolling artworks.
These revamped vans are poised to be a part of the convoy used during the royal family’s historic visit, playing a pivotal role in ferrying diplomatic staff and other individuals involved in the official state tour.
At its core, this collaboration highlights the Matatu as a canvas for storytelling, a mobile art form that encapsulates the essence of Kenyan identity.
The Matatu graffiti culture has long been a defining feature of Nairobi’s urban landscape, a dynamic and ever-evolving reflection of the city’s spirit.
Many global celebrities have co-signed the art form after their faces were featured on Nairobi’s Matatus.
One notable endorsement came from American rapper and actress Belcalis Marlenis Almánzar, popularly known as Cardi B.
In January 2021, Cardi B expressed her admiration for a Kenyan Matatu bearing her image.
She shared a tweet that showcased the striking Matatu imagery and exclaimed, “Wow. I love ya sooo much. America is boring they need buses like this!”