For those interested in recent pictures of trucks and other vehicles in Paksitan, the website
of New Zealand photographer and filmmaker Peter Grant is worth visiting, though recent posts appear to have veered away from truck art. His visit was part of a larger effort he has undertaken, called Painting Pakistan Proud
, that will display some truck art-related objects in two galleries on the island and feature a real “truck artist”, Similar to the US-based Pakistan Cargo Truck Initiative
, Grant’s project will also decorate an old campervan
During his time in Pakistan, Grant met with Durriya Kazi
, a Karachi-based, English-speaking artist who participated in “the first credible attempt to treat automotive decoration” as an art form. Unfortunately, Grant shares little on what he learned from her. Hopefully, this will appear in his film as well as more about what he was told in the conversations with truck drivers and artists he mentions.
Grant’s pictures, taken mostly in Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi, do a great job of capturing the beauty of Pakistani trucks and buses but his prose does not receive the same attention.
In particular, I was struck by his comment that “The trucks are male, the buses female…. (Hoping that its alright to recreate the screenshot here, I’m not sure how sensitive Grant is to copyright issues.) Of course, feminity is somewhat subjective, but this differs significantly from my understanding of trucks in Pakistan and how Jamal Elias describes them in On Wings of Diesel
: “While trucks frequently carry masculine symbols, such as weaponry or other forms”. They are invariably viewed as feminine. The word ‘truck’ is masculine in Punjabi, Pashto, and Urdu, but formal gender notwithstanding, trucks are notionally assigned feminine gender, even if they carry masculine-sounding names”. (126) Indeed, trucks are cared for, bejeweled and adorned the way that brides are.
Last May, the Istanbul public transit authority unveiled a municipal bus decorated by a Pakistani artist. The event was widely covered in Turkish print and broadcast media and included speeches by local municipal officials and the Pakistan Consulate General. The Turkish onlookers seem genuinely impressed by their unusual bus.
Overall, the design of the truck includes some aspects common to truck art in Pakistan but its a departure in several key respects. Some of the motifs, such as the chukar partridge and the peacock are frequently represented on trucks in Pakistan, as are some of the locations depicted, such as the Faisal Mosque and Minar-e-Pakistan. These Pakistani sites sit alongside a painting of the Blue Mosque, perhaps the most recognizable symbol of Istanbul.
The most significant departure of the bus from decorated vehicles in Pakistan is that there is no Islamic imagery, apart from mosques, which do not take on much religious significance. On decorated trucks in Pakistan, a depiction of the Kaaba or the Prophet’s mosque is the norm. The rear of the vehicle, which is typically a place for jokes or aphorisms, is dedicated to Pakistan-Turkey friendship.
Interestingly, much of the Turkish media covering the announcement have described the truck art as a “The Art of Karachi” (`Karaçi Sanatı`). Yet the artist, Haider Ali, hails from Lahore. As [UPDATE LINK HERE]I’ve discussed elsewhere, other cities can also make strong claims as the center of truck art in Pakistan.
According to the Consulate General in Istanbul, the bus was expected to be on the road for three months. I wonder what happened after that time? Recent forum posts suggest it may still be on the road.