Pakistan's hypnotizing truck art
Across South Asia, ordinary delivery trucks are transformed into vibrant works of self-expression
In Pakistan, one of the best places to see the country's vibrant folk art is on the road.
Fruit is unloaded from a truck at a produce market in Faisalabad, Pakistan. | (REUTERS/Caren Firouz)
From city marketplaces to sprawling farms, elaborately decorated delivery trucks, buses, rickshaws, and motorcycles decorate the landscape. This is Pakistan's truck art.
These are personal representations, carefully planned out between owners and artists, so that no part of the vehicle is left untouched by color. Paint, wood, and metal combine to create didactic portraits, looping calligraphy, and elaborate geometric puzzles and floral designs.
Portraits of religious figures decorate a truck in Faisalabad. | (REUTERS/Caren Firouz)
Truck art dates back to the early 1940s and can be seen across South Asia. In the early days, the more minimalist designs served as an expression of religious identity. Trucks driven by Sikh and Muslim transporters displayed portraits of religious figures.
By the end of the decade, the portraits expanded to include entire landscapes, and fantastical creatures like flying horses and strutting peacocks. Truck art grew louder in response to the psychedelic pop art that dominated the 1960s, with artists incorporating depictions of political leaders and pop culture icons into their works.
A security guard stands by of his favorite painted truck at a truck stop outside Faisalabad. | (REUTERS/Caren Firouz)
As the medium gained popularity, painters became a common fixture at workshops and roadside eateries where they tried to lure new clients. Today, truck owners spend hours working with painters to choose the best colors, materials, and images for their designs. Deciding how to decorate a truck may be the most important part of owning it.
Truck art went relatively undiscovered by the Western world until the 1970s, when American and European tourists brought back photos of the colorful vehicles. Then, in the 1980s, the Pakistani government capitalized on the unique art form by organizing truck art exhibitions. Truck art is now a popular Pakistani cultural export, inspiring toys, furniture, and clothing lines in Pakistan and Britain.
See some of the hypnotizing designs for yourself:
Workers load a painted truck with bags of straw outside Faisalabad, Pakistan. | (REUTERS/Caren Firouz)
A driver holds open a carved wooden door in Faisalabad, Pakistan. | (REUTERS/Caren Firouz)
A man paints the side of a truck at a workshop outside Rawalpindi, Pakistan. | (REUTERS/Mian Khursheed)