In our societies, art is generally regarded as an elitist activity but truck art is that indigenous form of cultural expression that came from the working class. So much is said and written about truck art in the 21st century but little is known about its history to many people. Its origins date back to 1920’s when Bedford Trucks manufactured by General Motors were imported to Pakistan and immediately became excessively popular because this compact vehicle with a relatively large capacity was considered to be a perfect match for Pakistani roads. Later on, towards the end of 1940s, when these trucks started their long-haul journeys to deliver goods, each company designed a logo so that everyone would understand who owned the truck even if they were not literate.The trucks were painted with a simple coat of protective coloring and the logos were stenciled onto them initially. But after partition, economic prosperity and trading activities in our country increased and so did the demand for vehicles to transport different goods and services. As time passed, these logos became increasingly decorative and embellished. They consisted of elaborate and vibrant floral designs, portrayal of human heroes with creative aspect ratios, calligraphy of poetic verses and the driver’s words of wisdom.It is widely believed that the colors used in the decoration of the trucks have an effect of warding off evil spirits away from the truck. This means that the decoration also translates into good luck for the business of the drivers.One thing that a lot of people do not know is that truck art first started with paintings on carriages and buses. The horse-driven carriages used were painted because the wealthy people of the subcontinent wanted something of value and color while the company owners would hire all sorts of skilled craftsmen to decorate their buses as part of their competition to attract more passengers.This was one of the earliest forms of advertisement.Authors have tried to identify the first artist in Pakistan but little accurate knowledge exists. Some people know Ustad Elahi Baksh or Haji Habib-ur-Rehman to be the first painter but some have given Haji Hussain this title. But one thing that is certain is that the painter was Karachi based and to this day the city exists as the main hub of truck art in Pakistan.
Truck art is a form of folk art which is the representation of the passion, inspiration and imagination of Pakistani painters. Drivers usually affiliate these traditional designs with a feeling of home and normality since they are on the road and away from their families for such long periods and to overcome their isolation, they build a close bond with their trucks on which they spend so much of their time, money and energy. When it comes to truck art, one more thing that comes off as a surprise is how expensive it can be. They usually cost around Rs. 300,000-500,000 but the drivers mostly pay the price without any argument as long as they get a truck that appeals to them in return. They also have to freshen up the paintings after almost every five years if they want to keep up its appearance. Due to this, a lot of painters now have a steady source of income because these trucks require a lot of attention and dedication and modernization has evolved truck art rather than subdue it which is aiding in boosting our economy.Providing job opportunities is not its only upside, truck art is also a source of inspiration for many local andinternational artists and designers such as Deepak Parwani, Dolce and Gabana etc, across the globe who use these innovative traditional designs and incorporate them into their creations whether it is clothing, shoes or any other form of decoration and make them bestsellers. Truck art has become one of the major tourist attractions of Pakistan. It has also given rise to many talented individuals who originally did not have a platform to portray their skills on and so exhibitions are being held to promote this.
Truck artcaptures the spirit of its homeland depicts the cultural richness of all corners of the country which is an inspiration. It was previously undervalued but after recent spike in its popularity after 2002, it emerged as a fashion statement of sorts and is finally recognized for its true value and beauty.
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