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UK Embassy in Kenya brands vehicles with ‘Nairobi Matatu’ graffiti ahead of royal visit

By Hilary Kimuyu October 26th, 2023 3 min read

As the country anticipates the royal visit of King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla to Kenya from October 31 to November 3, an unusual and vibrant initiative has taken shape.

The UK High Commission in Kenya has gone a notch higher and merged the traditional pomp of diplomatic visits with the vibrant street culture of Kenyan Matatus.

The embassy embarked on a remarkable journey by partnering with renowned graffiti artists to transform its fleet of vans into colorful spectacles that pay homage to Nairobi’s iconic Matatu culture.

According to the embassy, the initiative was undertaken by Graff Matwana, a renowned graffiti artist who also is the CEO and Founder of ‘Matwana Culture’ which describes itself as the ‘Home to the famous matatu culture’.

“For Royal visit Kenya, we have branded our vans in the style of Nairobi matatus graffiti art, collaborating with the legendary matatu graffiti artists Matwana Matatu Culture,” the embassy said.

British High Commissioner to Kenya Neil Wigan described the branded vehicles as “cool.” “These must be the coolest cars that Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office has?”

The colourful designs include British flags, digital prints and vinyl decals and are also adorned with symbols of both Kenyan and British culture, including Big Ben, London’s clock tower, marathoner Eliud Kipchoge and wildlife.

Some of the matatus also feature images of the King of England and his wife, Queen Camilla.

The refurbished vehicles are expected to form part of the convoy during the Royal Family’s historic visit and will be used to transport diplomatic staff and others involved in the official state tour.

In Kenya, the vibrant matatus fill the streets of the city blaring music as they bounce and weave through traffic with each matatu louder than the next, complete with graffiti-style artwork, custom designs, flashy lights and onboard entertainment to pull the crowds.

Matatu culture holds a special place in the hearts of Kenyans.

Matatus come in a variety of designs, featuring hip-hop artists, international pop stars, athletes, political icons and even religion.

Kenyan President William Ruto invited the royal couple for the visit, which comes as the African nation prepares to celebrate 60 years of independence from Britain in December.

“The King and Queen will undertake a State Visit to Kenya, from Tuesday 31st October to Friday 3rd November 2023, to celebrate the warm relationship between the two countries and the strong and dynamic partnership they continue to forge,” said the palace.

“The King and Queen will visit Nairobi City County, Mombasa County and surrounding areas,” said the palace.

It will be Charles III’s first visit to a Commonwealth nation since becoming monarch last September.

The programme will reflect how the two countries are working together on a range of issues, the statement added.

These include working “to boost prosperity, tackle climate change, promote youth opportunity and employment, advance sustainable development and create a more stable and secure region”, it said.

The king will meet members of the Kenyan government, UN staff, faith leaders, young people and Kenyan Marines training with UK Royal Marines and will also attend an event to celebrate Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai.

Kenya has a special significance for the royal family, being the country where the historic reign of Charles’ mother, Queen Elizabeth II began. She was visiting the country when her father King George VI died in 1952.

Kenya was the first stop on Elizabeth’s tour of the Commonwealth that she had embarked upon with her husband, Prince Philip, in place of her ill father.

And in 2010, Charles’ elder son Prince William proposed to his long-term girlfriend Kate Middleton while staying in Kenya.

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