Lorry Painters in Maiduguri

Lorry Painters in Maiduguri

There are three main motor parks in Maiduguri and close to each of them there also appears a place where lorries are repaired and, assumingly, painted. And with painting lorries I don’t just mean spraying them in some colour but producing these wonderful designs that for me distinguish lorries and trucks here in Nigeria from those on German or English roads. [Just to give you an idea of how beautiful these trucks are check out some of my pictures: …] Generally the whole business of lorry painting is associated with Jos but since I am here I have seen trucks that appear to have been painted in numerous other places, in fact, every bigger centre of trade appears to have at least some lorry painters. This is at least the impression the signatures and contact details lorry painters practically often leave on their designs convey.

Anyway, it appears the there are no lorry painters at Tashin Kano, one of Maiduguri’s big motor parks. When we asked for them one evening last week workers there didn’t even really know what we were talking about – and my friend who accompanied is fluent in Hausa, so it wasn’t an issue of language. And, in fact, on Saturday an artist based close by confirmed to me that there actually are no lorry painters based there.

However, after that frustrated evening trying to find them at Tashin Kano I discovered a lot of those beautifully decorated trucks in a side street of West End Roundabout in an area where a lot of traders appear to be based. I took quite a few snaps, most importantly I came across one design that appeared to be executed in Maiduguri. Next day I returned with a printout of this particular motif and started asking around whether anybody knew the guys. And, luck being on my side, the guy who owned the truck pop up, took me down to Tashin Baga and helped me find two lorry painters. Another one was introduced to me on Friday when I was asking for one of them and nobody could locate him. And, finally, I also came across the one who did the body work of the motif I had printed out and turns out he’s in his seventies and must have been in the business for decades. Problem is I will need a translator to speak to him and I’m running out of time.

Anyway, I managed to talk to three of them … or rather I had a proper interview with one of them, the two others … well, basically I spend the morning being dragged around by them and shown off to different local officials and the afternoon to get them talk to me and commission some works while they spent the money I gave them to by (non-alcoholic) drinks on getting drunk around me. Anyway, while it’s not been a particularly pleasant and efficient afternoon I think I still managed to get some relevant information out of them and to commission them to each execute one of their designs on canvas for me. Today I was able to already collect two of them, another one – inshallah or by God’s grace – on Wednesday.

The interesting thing is that only one of the three lorry painters is originally from Maiduguri, and by this I mean that he was born and brought up in the town. In fact, it appears that he is a graduate of the Creative Arts Department at the University of Maiduguri. The other two did not only grow up outside the town and state but also had there training there – one in Kano and the other one in Jos. So, there might be some interesting links between the different places, maybe it might even be possible to come up with some kind of family tree.

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