Forever Young? Baez, Dylan and Truck Art

Art Slant has an article about the founder of Tribal Truck Art, Anjum Rana, and one of its Lahore-based painters, Ustaad Haider Ali. Interspersed with lines from Bob Dylan’s Forever Young, the article does its best to capture the inspiration and style of truck art. Tribal Truck Art has, quite effectively, replicated truck painting and put it on household items. Or, as the article puts it, “kitsch becomes high brow”. Kitsch is not the right word here, as truck decorations are only kitsch from the perspective of the high brow outsider. Folk art might be more appropriate.

Similarly, this quote is a bit of a mischaracterization:

Truck art in Pakistan and India represents desires, dreams, hopes, idols, serenity, food, color, protection, and freedom. The color and decoration signify a kind of escapism, from a reality that can otherwise be sharp at the edges, with few comforting spaces within. It represents stature: he who has the best truck will get the most business — amongst clients or ladies or otherwise.

Truckers do take great pride in the decorations of their vehicle, but this is not related to financial gain. This absence of any economic motive behind truck decorations is one of the most striking findings from the research of Jamal Elias and other truck art scholars. When hiring a truck for transporting goods in Pakistan, few companies ever see the vehicle beforehand. This is different for decorated buses, who have to compete among passengers.