A Mov­ing Riot of Col­ors

Truck art has be­come a pop­u­lar rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Pak­istani cul­ture around the world. Be­neath the bright col­ors is the lan­guage of sym­bol­ism and sto­ry­telling.

Southasia - - Contents - By Ki­ran Wa­jid

Pak­istan’s truck art is a lan­guage of sym­bol­ism and sto­ry­telling.

One of the most in­ter­est­ing fea­tures of Pak­istani cul­ture is the vi­sion of trucks and buses cov­ered in a riot of color and de­sign. The ve­hi­cles may spit out diesel fumes and oc­cupy the ma­jor part of the road, with driv­ers ap­pear­ing to have a death wish but they cer­tainly stand out due to the in­tri­cate art­work they are decked with.

Art­work on com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles is com­mon in Pak­istan as well as in many other coun­tries, such as the Philip­pines, In­done­sia, In­dia, Bangladesh and parts of Cen­tral and South Amer­ica. In fact, the tech­niques and ma­te­ri­als used to dec­o­rate ve­hi­cles are more or less sim­i­lar in al­most all th­ese coun­tries. Pak­istani truck art, how­ever, is dis­tinct be­cause of the per­va­sive­ness of ve­hi­cle dec­o­ra­tion - from trucks and buses to vans, taxis, an­i­mal carts and even juice ven­dors’ push­carts ( shared only by Afghanistan).

The process of dec­o­rat­ing one’s ve­hi­cle is an ex­pen­sive one. It costs up to Rs. 500,000 and around six to 10 weeks to com­plete on a truck. Since most ve­hi­cles be­long to fleets, it is cus­tom­ary for the fleet own­ers to ask the driver to get the truck dec­o­rated at the coach­work shop at com­pany ex­pense as per his lik­ing, even though most trucks and buses have sim­i­lar col­ors and ty­pog­ra­phy. Given that the owner as well as the driver does not stand to reap any eco­nomic ben­e­fits from dec­o­rat­ing their ve­hi­cle and the art form is per­va­sive, it is safe to as­sume that ev­ery pri­vately owned truck in Pak­istan is dec­o­rated. It is also obvi-

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