D Lorry Painters in Sabon Kwakwaci

During the last two or three weeks I finally got around to approaching lorry painters – don’t get me wrong I have tried before. Then my point of departure was the address on the back of a lorry I saw and photographed right during my second day in town. However, it took forever to figure out where exactly the place mentioned there was. My local friends, I have to say, were not of great help either. ‘Kwakinachi, D/Tofa, Kano’ it read.

First time around, nobody had heard of the place at all. Then Ibrahim came up with the suggestion that the place might be misspelled and actually referring to Kwakwaci. Alright, so where then is Kwakwaci? Sabon Gari I was told, not far away from where I lodge, I was told. By more then one person. So, I got onto a bike and went there. And, I really found one guy who claimed to paint lorries. But then, for some reason I couldn’t help it but suspect he didn’t really know what I was talking about – paintings on lorries? Well, he’s doing signs, so this must be what I’m talking about. Something along those lines. However, even my helpful achaba driver was irritated by the guy’s lack of comprehension of my (admittedly basic) Hausa. (He understood me alright.) So, I chose to get a translator.

Getting Ibrahim to actually turn out somebody took another week or two. (see Salisu below to the right, on the left is Garba who assisted us a lot, himself a lorry painter) During which I developed major doubts about the guy I met at the Kwakwaci in Sabon Gari. I kept on asking people what D/Tofa could actually mean. Nobody came up with anything. Until, by chance, I myself came about a mention of Dawakin Tofa Local Government in some article. And there it clicked. The moment I mentioned this to Ibrahim he remembered that there are actually three Kwakwaci in Kano and one of them Sabon or New Kwakwaci in Dawakin Tofa local government, 30 mins – 1 hrs journey on a minibus (depending on traffic and how often they stop for passengers to get on and of).

Turns out this was the right track, finally after almost 6 weeks. In fact, as we discovered this week after three unsuccessful journeys there to meet whom we thought to be the third of two masters residing there we found out that there are about 20 or so workshops at the place. In addition the guys down there pointed us towards three other workshops, two of them on the town’s ring road, one at yet another Kwakwaci further in town. And, as most of the painters were actually were willing to answer a few questions I think I got quite a bit of information to go through and summarise during the weekend. And lots of pictures, some of which I’ll upload.
(Impression of Sabon Kwakwaci)
The only disappointment were two painters who didn’t talk to me. One of them had us come three times to see him and me wasting a whole eve to translate my questions into Hausa and neatly write them down for him. All this just to tell us the third time around (after we spent over an hour waiting for him to turn up for our appointment) that he couldn’t talk to me. – Supposedly, because I didn’t have a permanent office in Kano! A researcher at BUK suggested that might be a lie to cover up something else. It might well be that somebody told him I was a spy or reminded him not to trust a white person or something like that. It’s only too sad, in fact, very annoying: we were referred to him as one of the oldest painters at the location and one of the trainees of the guy who originally introduced the craft in Kano. The other one of the two, I don’t really know what happened. Twice he had just left when we arrived to see him (in one case to still find the open paint tins in front of an unfinished work) and was not to be expected back any time soon. Now it appears he resettled with his workshop in Jos, a few hours drive southeast. Well, as the town’s home to one of the oldest and most famous workshops in the northern region I will have to go there anyway and then we’ll see whether he ‘just’ miraculously resettled in Kano or what!

(a Christian motif, on a lorry probably coming from the south ... even with reference to the particular psalm in the bible, unfortunately they don't state the workshop where it was done ...)


  1. Soyinka 2007 writing in the New Statesman: The art of mammy-lorry painting offers keen insights into the politics of ordinary Africans


  2. This is some wonderful post.Good job, welldone

  3. good post keep it up and i ecpect to see more from you


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