Breath-taking Truck Art

The tradition of decorating any mode of transportation—from camels to ice cream carts

“My trucks are my pride,” says one truck owner. They are also a source of competition, with owners spending as much as $30,000 to outshine other vehicles.

A huge part of Pakistani culture is the vibrant and colourful trucks. Pakistan depends on these trucks for most of the country’s transportation needs. But they also fill another need: a platform to parade the country’s culture.

In Pakistan, most trucks are vivid showpieces of extravagant design. They are decorated with ornate striping, fishes, peacocks, flowers, politicians, movie stars, cricketers, and singers.this exuberant artwork is called “phool patti” and it adorns almost every form of transportation—ice cream carts, tractors, local buses, tuk tuks, and minivans that ferry passengers from town to town. In rural Pakistan, camels are decorated with henna designs.

When trucks arrived in British India in the early 20th century, local companies embossed their decorative logos on trucks. These logos helped illiterate working-class laborers to identify trucks. General Motors first introduced trucks to Karachi in the 1930s, and by the time of the Indian partition in 1947, Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, was a hub for truck painting. Artists, metal workers, and craftsmen from across the country flocked to Karachi for work. Ghandhara Industries, who took over General Motors’ national arm in 1963, imported a large number of massive Bedford trucks, produced by the British manufacturer Vauxhall. Known for their durability, these Bedford trucks came to dominate Pakistan’s roads, many with decorated “crowns”—large wooden prows fixed to the top of the truck.

“Truck art was also our social media, When Imran Khan won the cricket world cup in 1992, we painted cricket stars on our trucks.

What we learn from the drivers that there are no rules to truck art. Through truck art, you celebrate the imaginative nature of the drivers. You celebrate their love for poetry and art. Across the thousands of trucks present on Pakistan’s roads; no two trucks will look the same.

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