Pakistan’s truck art

The beauty of truck art

By Ali Usman

LAHORE: The art of decorating trucks, which is highly popular among truck drivers, can be used to learn much about the trends of various regions and the aesthetics of people of different ethnicities. Often, the art on the truck is a direct reflection of an ideology that the truck driver strongly believes in.

Drivers belonging to different regions and backgrounds decorate their trucks differently, often suggesting a pattern that depicts the culture, rituals and the ground realities of the areas that they belong to. The rear of the truck is often decorated in very vibrant colours and patterns, ranging from hot-pink cone-shaped trees to ancient tribal kings and queens.

The paintings and decoration on a truck can be used to tell which area the truck comes from, an experienced truck artist, Pervaiz, told Daily Times. “Most of the Pakhtun truck drivers demand paintings of sceneries, birds like chakoor and eagles and pictures of leaders like Ayub Khan and Imran Khan,” he said. Pictures of the film star Saima and pictures of Benazir Bhutto had recently become common among truck drivers, however, no current political leaders were being painted, he added.

History: The art of decorating trucks gained popularity during the Afghanistan War when trucks were used to propagate different messages. During the Gulf War in the 1990s, the favourite painting of the truck drivers was a picture of Saddam Hussein. A truck painter, Shahid, said: “During the 1990s, Saddam’s picture was popular among the truck drivers but then it gradually started to vanish from the truck rears.”

Truck bumpers are also often used to convey messages and provide information about the group the truck belongs to. In fact the bumpers are sometimes inscribed with philosophy works. A bumper of a truck read: “I have the life of an unfaithful companion. The punishment of my life has been far greater than my sins”.

Truck drivers: The truck drivers take great pride in making their trucks look beautiful. Zawar Khan, a truck driver; said, “We feel good about driving a truck that looks pretty.” When the truck comes onto the roads, it creates competition among truck drivers as each driver wishes to make his truck look more beautiful than the next one, he said. However, it was natural for people from different areas to have different priorities regarding the decoration of their trucks, he added.

Another truck painter, Asif, said that the art of decorating trucks was now gaining popularity among motorists who had also started to paint their cars in the same fashion. He said that it took 10 to 15 days for a truck to be decorated completely while the average cost ranged between Rs 2,000 to Rs 30,000 depending on the quality of art.

Regarding the art of decorating trucks, souvenir and accessories seller Habibullah said that he thought it was a great skill that needed to be acknowledged. He added, “I am not highly educated but I have seen paintings of artists who are acknowledged globally. I consider truck art to be no less than the works of the great popular painters, as the paintings on trucks are bigger in size if nothing else.”

First published in The Daily Times

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5 responses to “Pakistan’s truck art

  1. Pingback: Pakistan’s truck art « Asian Window

  2. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Pakistan: Truck art

  3. aish

    I wish someone would draw a relationship between truck art and Pakistan’s changing culture…just an analysis of the poetry and imagery; and how it reflects(or contrasts) with the passengers in the truck. Anyone?
    Send me a link if anyone does…

  4. That truck looks awesome, i love the intricate details.