10 ART

TOURISM SCENARIO INTERNATIONAL | www.educationscenario.com
ART     11

           y fascination stems from Jamal J

M          Elias, a professor of religious stud-
12 ART

ART     13

Images of birds and animals, most notably                                                            suffer...
14 ART

   This sense of devotion acts as a remarkable
   bond that keeps the trucker and the truck
   chained together. ...
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Art on wheels


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Art on wheels

  1. 1. 10 ART TOURISM SCENARIO INTERNATIONAL | www.educationscenario.com
  2. 2. ART 11 y fascination stems from Jamal J M Elias, a professor of religious stud- ies at the University of Pennsylvania. I read his article and get an e mail from him inspiring me to get on the road and capture the exquisite beauty of design and color of Bedford trucks in Pakistan. “You see them everywhere,” Elias wrote in his article, “But a lot of people don’t see them. One day I started staring at them, very care- fully. And I started to see there was some order to the madness.” Elias took six years to compile his monumental work for his forth- coming book “On Wings of Diesel”, and it is still in continuation. I traveled some 5000 km in three months from Karachi to Khunjrab Pass traversing through deserts, plains, pass- es and awesome mountain landscapes along Karakoram Highway. I met many interesting people, roadside artists (Street Picassos I call them) and many unforgettable experiences in my quest for unique vehicle decorative art in Pakistan. During all that wonderful period of exploration, I had but one consistent inspira- tion from that genie of Pakistan truck art — Jamal J Elias Sipping morning tea from a tiny china clay cup in a roadside truck drivers’ tavern on the banks of river Indus, I looked at the long stretch of Karakoram Highway winding into “On Wings of Diesel”, and it is still in continuation. I traveled some the distance. It was only a night before when I Bedford parked outside. “This truck is my 5000 km in three months from reached Bisham from Lahore. I have been on bride. That’s why most of them are painted in the road for many days without rest pursuing red. I spent most part of my life with it than at Karachi to Khunjrab Pass traversing truck caravans bound for Sost [last Pakistani my home with parents and family. Like a newly through deserts, plains, passes and village on Pak-China border]. Morning sun wed bride it should look beautiful, enticing awesome mountain landscapes shone brightly over the mud roof of driver’s and alluring.” He narrated this with the magic along Karakoram Highway hotel a few kilometers ahead of Bisham. We touch of an ancient story teller. Soon, the tan- sat on huge charpoys, sipped more tea as talizing channa dal and parathas arrive and Sada Khan talked about his magnificent red breakfast begins in a formal manner. Sada www.educationscenario.com | TOURISM SCENARIO INTERNATIONAL
  3. 3. 12 ART A normal sized Bedford truck takes three to four hundred thousand rupees to be painted and decorated in style, a sum that amounts to two years’ salary of an average truck driver Lahore are centers of decorative painting industry for this kind of vehicle art. To some extent it is done in Afghanistan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines as well but Pakistan has a unique style of color and designs that is clearly distinguishable. It is based on a whole set of religious, patriotic and cultural ideology. The fascinating diversi- ty of images ranges from secular to religious themes. Famous actresses and cricketers appear more frequently on wooden planks. Winds of cultural change though have replaced leaders, martyrs and other celebri- ties with missiles and new age heroes like Dr Khan laid his back on the many colored blan- A normal sized Bedford truck takes three to Abdul Qadir Khan as country stepped into the kets piled on the charpoys and continued his four hundred thousand rupees to be painted Nuclear Club in1996. “Patriotic Billboards” tale, “I fell in love with truck decorations in and decorated in style, a sum that amounts to as many Westerners label these vehicles, the Peshawar, where I was a helper boy at truck two years’ salary of an average truck driver. trucks carry a huge number of religious signs stations decades ago. I know that an aesthet- Yet, many of them spend whatever fortunes and slogans as well. Images of Ka’aba and ically decorated truck can make you jealous, they have on truck paintings. It may take one Madina appear mostly on the upper front with envious at best and you cherish the dream to to two months for the truck to get ready for the names of Allah and the Holy Prophet. Verses outclass others by more eloquent designs road. Truck workshops in Karachi, Ghotki, from Holy Quran are either painted or hung in and patterns.” D.G. Khan, Peshawar, Taxila, Rawalpindi and the form of plastic cut outs or metal pieces. TOURISM SCENARIO INTERNATIONAL | www.educationscenario.com
  4. 4. ART 13 Images of birds and animals, most notably suffer”, whispered Badshah in a dingy tea stall peacocks, pigeons, lions and tigers are drawn in the outskirts of Multan. Truck drivers don’t on the side panels. The ever present figure of spend much money on their families and Ayub Khan behind many trucks in NWFP and houses. They view trucks as a deity which Balochistan has something to do with a mix of brings them income, joy and freedom of the some patriotism and nostalgia of the bygone road. It’s kind of Bhagwan for us”, Badshah days In a country with poor road infrastructure displayed his tea and naswar coated teeth and almost non extant railroad system for and straightened thick moustache with the mobilization on a mass scale, Ayub’s son, thumb and first finger of his free hand. I from 1962 to 1969 came forward as the ar of Pakistani culture comments, “The paint recalled an article where Durriya Kazi, head of country’s sole Bedford dealer and made sure jobs identify competing ethnic groups. You the department of visual studies at the that Bedfords were the only trucks imported can look at a truck and tell exactly what region University of Karachi and an encyclopedia of into the country. Locally manufactured trucks it comes from and what ethnic group the driv- Pakistani truck-decoration quoted such were nowhere in the competition and when er belongs to.” instances, “I remember one driver who told local artists created breathtaking master- Through my multiple interactions with truck me that he put his life and livelihood into the pieces out of Bedfords they swept the market drivers I came to know that truck painting for truck. If he didn’t honor it with the proper paint like a storm. J.M. Kenoyer, a renowned schol- them was a labor of love, “and love makes you job, he would feel he was being ungrateful.” www.educationscenario.com | TOURISM SCENARIO INTERNATIONAL
  5. 5. 14 ART This sense of devotion acts as a remarkable bond that keeps the trucker and the truck chained together. For a truck driver, his machine is the life’s whole sphere. He scarce- ly looks beyond that. “We don’t have to”, laughed Badshah, “and why should we when exhibition on wheels which involves arduous ed machines got easily noticed and fetched we feel protected and enormously proud in labor and a careful placement of each piece better bargains. Stylized murals and bright red our beautiful paradise.” Charas, naswar, and of colored plastic, every stroke of paint brush color did the job for many truckers. Some tobacco are among some of the pleasures and carving and engraving on the panels and shrewd artists painted pictorial allusions that these truckers have in their rugged routines. sides”, he explains amid chugging of heavy were alien to local cultural and visual sensibil- The glorious art work provides an escape engines and noisy rattle of metal plates. ities to draw immediate attention. Some driv- from the monotony of life. Music is another Verses from Holy Quran are either ers [or designers] with a literary flavor love to pre-requisite of this nomadic lifestyle. see verses from Urdu poetry on the vehicles. Truckers don’t dance, not even sing but are painted or hung in the form of Most of these verses are about dejection and fond of folk tunes and songs that include plastic cut outs or metal pieces. betrayal in love. Some verses become slo- regional flare. Atta Ullah Khan Eesakhailvi, Images of birds and animals, most gans of drivers’ ideology and some of their Allah Ditta Loonay Wala and Zarsanga are notably peacocks, pigeons, lions very personal aspirations. Goods and com- among most cherished singers. Multicolored and tigers are drawn on the side mercial companies jumped into the art com- laces hang from stereos and speakers cov- panels. petition and entire fleets of trucks came to ered in beads and plastic decorative items workshops to be painted in designs exclusive- make truck interiors pompously ornamental. ly created for each corporate competitor. A Booming truck painting industry despite all nation of 160 million people needed loads of its magnitude and impact may not be a lucra- Though well known and respected for their supplies to be moved from one part of the tive vocation for the people who work in it. artistic skills, many of them are dissatisfied country to another and Bedford, Hino, Volvo, Street Picassos [truck painters] are mostly with marginal wages they earn from their cre- Isuzu and Mercedes’ heavy machines traveled underpaid. Many ‘Ustads’ and their appren- ative art. They wish their kids to join school in form of chained caravans. Now truck paint- tices commonly called ‘chotas’ create mag- and get educated for better jobs. ing is recognized as a form of cultural art and num opus out of a common Bedford for small Trucks began to draw attention as the trans- became a subject of profound interest for amounts and scanty privileges. “Big chunk of portation industry flourished with construction scholars of cultural diversity. Decorated the money goes to workshop owner”, said of major Highways. Truckers got their vehicles brides of truck drivers move in splendor all Hajji in a typical Lahori workshop famous for painted and decorated in hope to draw atten- across the country with unprecedented pomp plastic and metal work. “This art is a complete tion for more business. More visibly decorat- and show. TOURISM SCENARIO INTERNATIONAL | www.educationscenario.com