‘Matatu’ Graffiti as An Avenue for Self-Expression and Social Commentary Among the Youth in Nairobi, Kenya
This paper seeks to examine urban Art in Kenya as an integral part of urban culture with particular emphasis on ‘matatu’ graffiti, (an off-shoot of ‘mural’ graffiti that is depicted on medium-sized vehicles used for urban public transport) as an avenue for self-expression among the youth in Nairobi, Kenya. It will also examine other forms of related art, such as the genre of painting referred to as street art and explore the genesis of themes and subject matter that interest the youth. In order to generate a chronology of thoughts, the paper approaches the above first from the broad spectrum of urban culture and what it entails and then breaks it down to one of the most critical and visible elements of urban culture which is urban Art which, in turn, encompasses many forms of visual creativity both in two dimensional and three-dimensional dispensations that manifest themselves within an urban environment. The paper delves substantively on the generation of broad themes that form the basis of varied subject matters that are regularly depicted in matatu graffiti. These broad themes often derive or emanate from sociocultural, socioeconomic, religious and political factors. The paper also examines the age bracket (herein referred to as The Youth) which embraces urban Art both in terms of its execution and its consumption as well as the underlying factors that seem to make it broadly attractive and acceptable as a means of self-expression, collective discourse and social commentary among the youth. The paper finally examines the relationship between matatu graffiti and hip-hop, a genre of music characterized by terse verbal symbolism and which is increasingly associated with urban culture and the complexities of social expression in the contemporary urban world.
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