‘Truck Art’ genre becomes vibrant folk ornate-identity of Pakistan globally

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By Dr. Saeed Ahmad Ali

LAHORE, Jan 10 (APP):Art is a visual form of communication and reflection of human society, which generates creative activities including painting, drawing, sculpture, architecture, music and similar other forms. 

Art has a significant impact on society, religion, and education, thus deserves the same reverence bestowed upon the other fashions of various sciences.

Just like the sciences, art has the power to train, boost or revolutionize the world. It reflects our moods, norms and beliefs and ever changing culture has the power of ability to modify the values of society. Likewise, art introduces meanings and imagination into people’s lives by helping them preserve the world’s heritage, art, culture and building of the societies. Simply, it is a manifestation of the level of a society and reflection of people’s intricate identities.

Talking to APP Deputy Director Public Relations Alhamra Arts Council, Subha Sadiq said that cultural and skill-full industries are potential contributors to economic growth and social development, which are being recognised by both the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government and civil society.

 Gradually when a population grows and society expands, art through changing its forms reflects its new developments. Even it can be observed from our history and documents which reflect the crucial and hidden component of our lives, Subha added.

“If we go through literature, we observe that writing pieces or texts reflect the exact picture of the era or period in which those scripts were written in.

When writers and authors compose their books or texts, they are definitely influenced by the factors which are being impacted by their current society, Sadiq said.

Director Art and Culture Lahore Arts Council (LAC), Zulfiqar Ali Zulfi told APP that truck art in Pakistan has now become a well known and renowned ornate “Art” around the world. For its unique and interesting outlook, this kind of art was being praised all over the world, as different countries had placed their orders of demand to paint various public transport designs in their countries, he said.

 In Pakistan, truck art was not just a cultural expression or representation; rather it was a deep rooted tradition which has now been turning into a fruitful business boom for drivers, he added. 

To a query he said that the commercial trucks which run on roads were not just jingling one, but those were in fact, the moving masterpieces of art, adding there was much to understand the real meaning of the arty-crafty miniature and beautiful wooden designs, engulfing these commercial vehicles. 

He said the walls of these trucks completely projected Pakistani culture through the expression of various objects including brave army men, flowers, actors and actresses, religious holy sites and other related miniature work.

 With colourful elaborated flamboyant motifs, Pakistani truck art has inspired gallery exhibitions internationally and prompted stores in European countries to sell miniatures, he said.

The history of truck art in Pakistan, origins back from the early twentieth century, when the import of Bedford company trucks was started from England, during British Empire era, he elaborated. 

And since then the number of trucks invaded the country’s roads and paths, even when the basic road infrastructure was not well built, he said adding that these trucks were fitted locally with large wooden prows which were erected on the top of their bed.

The bed over built wood structure was known as a crown (taj), while the ornate prow was also associated with decorative bumpers and beautiful wood paneling along the cabin, Zulfi said. 

During the 1940s, when trucks started their long-haul journeys to deliver commercial goods, each company carved or designed a specific logo so that uneducated people would understand exactly the name of the owner of the truck.

Abdul Raheem, a calligraphist and painter of truck art told APP that a truck was decorated mainly with writings and paintings on various subjects, which are placed in a pattern of identical squares, giving it an attractive and eye-catching look. When a truck is either on the highways or in a village or city for the purpose to load and unload goods, the people get surprised and amazed to see the wonderful artwork on the sides and crown of the truck. Different sized trucks are displayed with a different theme and design on each part which reflects the Imagination of the painters and artists.
Truck art has got international popularity because of the hard work and artistry of the workers and painters.

They spend many hours just decorating a single part of the truck. He said that Haji Habib Ur Rehman is the first known Truck Art painter of Pakistan. Who started truck painting during the 1950s and is still working in a good health condition, with the same spirit, until today.

According to the available data of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), the total number of registered vehicles in the country during 2018 has been witnessed, with an increase of 9.6 per cent as compared to the number during 2017, while the total number of vehicles in 2018 had reached at 23,588,268. Similarly, the number of commercial trucks had surged to 277,416 from 272,934 in one year. The number of passenger buses has also risen to 236,461 from 233,884, during the same year period, the data showed.

It is worth mentioning here that Chief Executive of Sky Wings (PVT) Limited, Imran Aslam told APP that his flying academy was painting a two-seater Cessna aircraft with the colourful techniques of Pakistan’s famous truck art.

This indigenous art of Pakistan became popular to the European and American countries during the 1970s and onwards when their tourists took back the photographs of the beautiful painted and decorated trucks running on the roads and highways of Pakistan.