History has it that the first matatu to make its way on Kenyan roads did so in the late 1950s. Back then matatus were plain minibusses that served one purpose, getting locals from point A to point B. They were also much cheaper.
A ride cost 3 pennies which is the equivalent of 30 Kenyan cents and that is how they got their name.
6 decades later, matatus are not just a mode of transport. They have become a part of the Kenyan culture and compared to their 1900s counterparts, today’s mathrees feature extravagant designs, gaily decorations, and entertainment making them the most popular transport mode.
Art On The Move
Nairobi and Mombasa are said to have the coolest matatus but Eldoret is catching up rather fast. That’s a lie. We are catching up rather slowly but the point is we are catching up.
I’m talking onboard entertainment in the form of music and flat screens, slick paint jobs, flashy LED lighting, noisy exhausts, uniquely customized honks, and artwork in the form of graffiti. Some Eldoret matatus are moving museums starring airbrushed and hand portraits of popstars, local musicians, footballers, icons, & athletes as well as sayings and slogans.
Leyla, (one of my favorite humans), Kosgei Desmond, (our photographer of the day), and I went on a quest to find out the top 5 coolest matatus. Being from the Chep Matatu Sacco route, that is where we started.
Langas and Dukaa Sacco, we are coming your way soon and then we will finish this series by checking out the dopest matatu pimp spot in Eldoret. For now, though, let’s have a look at our top picks along the Chep Matatu Sacco route.
These serve residents of Subaru, Action, Jeru, Hawaii, Sinai, Peris, Chips, Junction, Opande, all the way to Sogomo.
Please note, we missed out on a couple of really dope matatus like Singles because they were not at the stage.
Named after the famous series Black List, this mathree features graffiti and the coolest airbrushed portraits, one on each side.
You will also find Mejja’s infamous lyrics “niliambiwa nimwache siskii” at the back. The seats are comfy, the car in great condition, and the music great but for me, it’s the paint job that takes home the trophy.
The bright orange paint job aside, Mist fuses several interesting themes on its body including hip-hop, the art of spray painting, and Tom n Jerry.
Makaveli’s exterior pays tribute to the legend Tupac Shakur and the Hip Hop culture in general. The window designs of the matatu are unique and the paint job just right.
There are two matatus going by the name Burna Boy hence the title Burna Boys.
Both spot simple, laid-back artwork, flashy LED lights that come on when it is dark, booming music, and one has a flat-screen.
What Innocent lacks in terms of artwork it makes up with music. It is my personal favorite and I like to compare it with one of Dj Mellow’s taglines “Full Kisunzi, Full Taabu, Full Vibu”.
The driver and the conductor are the coolest. Peaceful, polite, and cultured. As you can tell from its back paintwork, the matatu mostly dabbles in reggae music. Should you find yourself lucky to be seated next to the driver, you will feel like you have VIP tickets to a reggae concert.