Innovating ‘Alternative’ Identities: Nairobi <i>Matatu</i> Culture

Mbugua wa Mungai

in Media and Identity in Africa

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print April 2009 | ISBN: 9780748635221
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748653010 | DOI:
Innovating ‘Alternative’ Identities: Nairobi Matatu Culture

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Few objects command the centrality of place in Kenyan public life enjoyed by matatu – the privately owned vans and minibuses that have been at the core of the country's public transport sector – moving people, goods and ideas for slightly over half a century. Yet the intensity of public hostility directed at these same objects of material culture might cause one to wonder why Kenyans have never staged public protests against them or, indeed, why the government has never considered banning this mode of transportation altogether. Setting aside questions of policy and the logistical intricacies of public transport in Kenya, this chapter examines the complex, multi-sensory, subcultural space that has sprung up around matatu since their first illegal entry into Kenyan public life in 1953.

Keywords: matatu culture; Kenyan public life; public transport; material culture

Chapter.  3620 words. 

Subjects: African Studies

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