“Dennis Muraguri: Manyanga, Music, Mischief, Mayhem” is a celebration of Muraguri’s distinctive “Matatu” works on paper. One of the most vibrant artists exploring urban culture in Nairobi, Dennis Muraguri is a mixed media artist working primarily in printmaking and sculpture. Recognized widely for his energetic woodcut prints featuring “matatu” culture, Muraguri captures the social interstices created by the explosive creativity in the unregulated transport economy of Kenya.
Matatu culture is a social phenomenon unlike anything seen elsewhere in the world. Serving as the primary means of transportation in the country, this network of private buses has evolved over time from merely a functional solution overcoming a lack of public transportation to become the epitome of the urban cultural experience in Kenya – urban street art on crack. Each matatu follows an assigned route but embodies entirely different personas to attract clientele – replete with massive sound systems, flat screen TVs, free Wi-Fi, and impeccable graffiti/collage work to catch the commuters’ eye.
Muraguri’s woodcuts bring to life the energy of this social phenomenon, with vibrant, bold colors that beg the viewer to ponder the impact of our urban existence. His prints are a mesmerizing patchwork highlighting what makes the present mega city so ephemeral and timeless. They can’t help but remind us how urban fragmentation (disconnected patches of high-density urbanities adjacent to rural enclaves) – the result of the tension between centralization/decentralization – is a metaphor for how urban life is always in flux, in a precarious balance between competing impulses and market forces.