By Isaac Blessings
Nairobi is home to some of the fancy and beautifully decorated quality matatus in the world. The ‘Matatu culture’ as it is commonly referred to, has become rampant in Nairobi with young people preferring these Matatus as compared to buses even though buses are way cheaper. Flashing lights and animations, loud music, multiple TV screens on board and captivating artwork on the outside are what makes this Matatus the favorite of many. However most Kenyans have always grappled with the thought of this ‘Matatu culture’ origin in Nairobi. In this article, we bring you the story of Moha Grafix – the pioneer and man behind these Matatu Grafix and artworks.
Moha Grafix Background
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Mohamed Kartarchand Bagatiram Rala Ram famously known as Moha Grafix is the man behind the famous Matatu culture. He is a firstborn in a humble family of three and was left to take care of his siblings after his parents died when he was barely 14. He luckily finished his high school education and performed well but couldn’t afford the fees to join college or university. That’s when he started his journey back in 1997 when he was first employed in a company that deals with corrugated sheets and later in a painting company as a sales person.
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He later quit the job a year later and joined a garage to start doing art on buses. With no background on the same, he relied on YouTube videos to learn and perfect his artwork skills. Although the garage owner wasn’t receptive to the graffiti idea, Moha didn’t give up on his dream. He made his first matatu in 1998 named ‘Ganja Farm’ that operated in the Buruburu-town route. The matatu became famous among the youths and that’s when he got his breakthrough. Out of nowhere he received 10 vehicles at once and that’s when he started looking for a space to start his own garage.
Straight Outta Moha Grafix Garage
In early 2000, Moha got a space in California, Eastleigh, Nairobi where he established his garage. With now Kenyans becoming aware and appreciating the Matatu culture, everyone entering the matatu industry would bring their vehicles to his garage. At one point he would handle up to 30 vehicles per week where he would charge 60,000 for matatus and 200,000 for buses. His major popularity and financial breakthrough came in 2005 when the former Nairobi governor Mike Sonko joined the transport industry.
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Sonko would bring him 5 new matatus every week and pay him double the amount he would request in exchange for the best and most outstanding artworks and designs on his matatus that operated in the Buruburu – town route. This made him famous and popular since in every vehicle he would handle, he left a ‘Straight Outta Moha Grafix’ logo.
The garage is currently located along Riara road and has employed over 40 young people who assist him in ideas and delivering the technical designs. He also mentors and teaches a group of young people who are interested in joining the graffiti and arts industry. He currently charges 14 seater matatus up to 400,000 for the full designs, 1.3 million for the fancy matatus and up to 1.5 million for buses.
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Speaking to a local daily, Moha said that some vehicle owners spend upwards of Sh2 million to pimp their rides.
“Some vehicle owners spend between Sh500,000 and Sh2 million depending on the amount of transformation required. Of course, my profit margins are small. In such a business, do not aim for mega-profits and scare away customers”, he told the Standard.
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