To Whomever it May Concern: Mat(Art)u Culture

To whomever it may concern,

I don’t have any flowery salutations for you and your cronies. I believe you get enough of that in your offices swinging on imported leather chairs behind huge mahogany finished desks. Your chauffeur too ensures your ego is sufficiently stroked every day. When you walk out of your large mansion or furnished apartment and into the open back left door of your fuel guzzler. Your suit, is it an import? Italian maybe? What about your shoes? Does the driver complain about your possibly obnoxious cologne? Pardon me. Of course he doesn’t. He might hate his job but he loves his family more. Compromise. Something you should look up.

Inside your car with the windows blacked out how does it feel? Outside it’s hot. The sun is in our face. The lady sitting next to me, for some reason, has had a lovers quarrel with her shower. But I guess her water bill is at an all-time low. With this economy she might be the winner. Stinks. But she still is a winner. I don’t have a car. Chances are it might take me longer now seeing as your friends decided duty wasn’t enough. But I’ve read about them over and over again. I know what engine size I will start with 1800cc maybe 2000cc depending on how I wake up that day. Back to you. It’s hot outside but with the cooling effect of that 3M tint and the A/C cranked up it must feel like you’re in an ice cream factory right? God forbid you sweat out that expensive cologne. Did you know with the A/C on fuel consumption goes up? Of course you didn’t. Who fuels your car? The driver, yes? But not with his money, it’s mine of course. So he doesn’t feel the pinch.

Mornings are crazy. With all the traffic jam going around. I’ve almost lost my job now, twice. You see my boss doesn’t understand why traffic jam is an excuse. If only you left an hour earlier. He always says. Then you would avoid the traffic. An hour earlier for me means possible mugging. I don’t have a body guard, don’t look at me like that. I don’t have a personal fire arm. My only security is a prayer and the sunlight. For some reason these people are afraid of the sun. Can we make the sun permanent? But you, do you even have a boss? Is he ever in the country? Maybe he is whiling away the morning traffic at some country club drinking overpriced coffee and flipping through the dailies to see if the journalist got his good side for the photo. So you leave late. Traffic? Not a problem. You have this thing called sirens. And chase cars. So you maneuver around bullying us off the road. It’s not like you have somewhere to be. Office you say? You are funny my guy.

See for me, I will sit in traffic with the unbearable sun sweating out my 200 shilling deodorant and tolerating miss stinky. What makes it bearable for me you ask? No. Not the will to live. Not the salary I will get either. But you’re getting close. It’s the simple things, like the music. The television screen showing semi-nude women dancing. The internet connection. See I can go online and complain about miss stinky. I know somewhere someone will relate and we will laugh about it. Did I say the sun was unbearable? I did? Because it is. But this wasn’t a problem a few years back. We too had the tint. It’s ironical because while you think you have privacy you want to protect we too don’t want you looking out your window and seeing us. This shirt I bought for 400 shillings, the sunglasses a hawker convinced me made me look like Tom Cruise, they won’t please your eyes. Especially eyes that only have Dolce and Gabbana (did I say that right?) Ray Bans ad Chanel sitting on the bridge of their nose very waking hour. I checked my designer, he’s called made in china. Such a long name but you know these designers. Fancy and all.

So now all I have left is the music. You were once young right? You have a son maybe a daughter? They have a car yes? You bought them one to avoid sitting to miss stinky. I remember once on of your friends made a remark that he could not drive the same car as his son or be seen in one. This was a time when the government (I know technically you’re not in government) decided to get all its officials 1800 cc vehicles. At that time we did not ask why his teenage son could afford an 1800 cc vehicle. I digress. All we have is the music. Being young I want to feel alive. You can go sky diving, bungee jumping, shopping sprees abroad. I can’t. So the music makes me feel alive. Especially when the bass gives my heart the same kick jumping out of a plane at 12000ft gives you. I promise you it’s the same thrill. All I have to do is put my head outside the window and let the wind hit my face at 80Km/hr. By the way thank you for that. See I’m not just spewing hate. Any faster and I would not be able to write this. Goes to show when your head is somewhere other than up your behinds we can achieve some good.

But now you want to take it away. The music. You say it’s too loud. But, how do you hear it from your tinted, rolled up and bullet proofed windows? You wouldn’t. You say it’s a nuisance. How about your loud sirens? You think we like that? Do you see us complain? Hear us even? But you hear the music? Fancy gift you got there. Selective hearing. Mutant much? I admit to some it may be too loud. But we have this thing called freedom of choice. You exercise it every day when the E240 just doesn’t feel elegant enough so you jump onto the V8 land cruiser. Same here. We have options. We have buses that serenade you with their squeaky brakes and lull you to sleep with the monotonous drone of their engines. We have matatus with driver-conductor conversations entertaining enough to make you miss out on a whole week of Netflix. Then we have the club bangers. Well known. Entry into one is the proverbial or not so proverbial accepting terms and conditions. So you don’t worry about my eardrums. Matter of fact win-win if I can’t hear you lie right?

Finally. Youth. People like me and people like you trying to act like they are people like me. We are a very funny lot. We have been called lazy. Ungrateful. Uneducated. Rowdy. Dimwits. The list is endless. You and your friends promise us jobs. The Kenyan dream. Work in an office. Get a salary. Build the economy. But do you know how hard they are to come by? Jobs? Kind of like your tax returns. Actually exactly like your tax returns. So you ask us to embrace entrepreneurship. Embrace talents. Embrace the arts. Embrace sports. You’re selling us a new dream. The dream of a new economic front. A dream where we are all our own bosses. Can you believe that? Me, sending myself a text saying I will be late? But like the sheep we are we believe you. And guess what? You were right. It feels great working for yourself and building something out of nothing. Creating jobs. Generating income. Having your own business card.

But now you want to take part of that away. Because art disturbs your eyes. You want to see uniformity from the same people you asked to be different? How now? Explain. Identification you say? It’s hard to identify the color on a matatu? Because it has graffiti painted on its body? That’s really hard. I mean how would I explain to someone that I am in the matatu with the face of our first lady painted on it? There are so many first ladies out there. But enough with the art. Identification? Isn’t that what the plates are for? Do you know how many white Toyotas are out there? How do we know which belongs to who? The way I see it they should all get art done on them to make them unique. But you don’t see things the way I see it. You want to see enterprising young men and women lose their source of income. Or who did you think air brushed those matatus eeh? You think they were imported that way? You tell us to embrace talent and turn it into income then you turn around and say “Just kidding get a real job”.

How long until writing becomes a nuisance? Will you then ban people from reading books? How long till musicians become a social vice? Will you then ban radio stations? Soon photographers too will become a threat to the economy. Maybe national security because they shoot. Mr/Miss/Mrs whoever it may concern do me a favor please… GERRARAHIA MEN SHIIIIT!

matartu
matartu
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57 thoughts on “To Whomever it May Concern: Mat(Art)u Culture

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  1. I mean, what are we going to be left with if we start putting our matatu culture to possible extinction? How vapid is the capital going to be?The sad bit is that they have given corrupt traffic police the ammunition to go ahead and dive deeper into their vice. That, and the loss of employment to the artists who adorn those matatus with their beautiful creativity.

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  2. So I am one of those people shouting at the top of the voices in their heads concerning the issue, but unlike you, I loathe the music, the grafitti, don’t even get me started. Always gives me migraines. And it makes the already obscene dondas seem even worse.
    Still, it is so refreshing to read from the other camp (I bet I better say this lest I be lynched).
    So on point with the writing!

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    1. Hahaha no lynching. But I also done like the loud music at times and at such times I opt for the bus. I love the graffiti. It’s such an expression of self that cannot be ignored. For the dondas my experience has been indifferent. I’ve met good ones and even the bad ones are good to me when I can clearly see they’re treating others differently. Maybe silently the know or knew I’d write this. Hehe

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  3. i still dont get it..
    how will stripping off the grafitti reduce road carnage??

    on friday nights, we all have options..either stay indoors and sleep or go out n party..
    i believe same case applies..
    if you dont want to board the jav with loud music, tulia panda the likes of mwi sacco za kasarani..

    save our matartu culture..

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  4. On point man,, my personal opinion is simple,, hutaki ngoma usipande mat ina ngoma,,by now even grannies can tell a mat with loud music and trust me,, kwa stage kuna nganya moja na sekete kaa tano, every sacco. As for graffiti,, long live our unique culture

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  5. Long live the matatu culture. It is very refreshing to see the nganyas on the road, and just as exciting to take a ride in them. We should appreciate the youth’s creativity.
    This is well written.

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  6. There is a social divide in this graffiti and loud music thing. I think as a writer your assumption is that all young people love loud music and graffiti. Maybe so, maybe not. Bottom line is that music doesn’t have to be loud to be heard, same way graffiti doesn’t have to be on every vehicle for it to stand out. What the stakeholders can do is both meet and agree on how well to integrate the art into the system without inconveniencing commuters by imposing loud music or graffiti on them. Even when you ask around, not everyone loves honey however sweet it is. Minorities and majorities should be well taken care of by the system. In all, nice write-up there bro.

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    1. I’m under the assumption that people have choice. You don’t have to like the loud music. You can like the quieter kind, modest and even no music. But you have that option. As a writer all I’m saying is they shouldn’t take away one of the options. Let those that want really loud music to get what they want.

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  7. So here’s how it all goes…… true they tell us to use whatever talent the good Lord gave us and make money out of it, we humbly accept, forget bout tarmacking for jobs and get down n dirty n do our own stuff, then for some reason our income earning stuff becomes a threat to them because its not appealing to the chosen few an they wanna take it away in a day without warning, jus like thieves…… so we let them take it away and we go back home, back to the now dusty CV’s and get back on the “tarmac” to chase the other dream and guess what…. it’s nowhere to be found so, we wait on the corners of buildings and dark alleys for those who got lucky with office jobs and we mug the $#!t out of you, and one thing leads to another until they come back on air and declare a ‘shoot to kill’ order on us, the young people who are supposed to leaders of “kesho” and so we get back to living under bridges and begging on the streets where u look at us badly and complain that the city now has too many street families and beggars and u call upon kanjo to clean up…….

    LET GRAFFITTI LIVE ON!!!…..

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  8. while I think that these matatus have their downsides like recklessnes kidogo, i largely agree with what you say, they are part of our culture, heritage and creativity as a people. Your article made me laugh a lot. Nice job

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