Shop Etsy

Noted: The Truck Art of Pakistan

Sep 8, 2011

by Chappell Ellison

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

The city streets of Pakistan may be one of the greatest art shows in perpetual motion that you’ll ever see. Nearly every truck, rickshaw and bus is a kaleidoscope of color, festooned with trinkets, beads, fabrics and paint. This mobile art form started in the 1920s, when rival transportation companies began decorating their trucks to attract passengers. They had no idea they were establishing what is now one of the biggest forms of representational art in the country. For many working-class men in Pakistan, truck art is their only means of expressing their emotional views toward the world. For that reason, truck owners spend thousands of dollars on decorating their vehicles, carefully selecting their imagery. The process of fully painting a truck can take up to ten weeks, in which time the owner of the vehicle practically moves in with the hired artist to oversee the work. There are even highly regarded truck painters like Haider Ali, sought by only the wealthiest of truck owners.

Today, truck art has evolved from a marketing ploy to represent a deeper, spiritual message. “Unlike vanity plates and ‘pimp-my-ride’ style modifications, Pakistani truck art is about cultural history and tradition, storytelling, passion, and sometimes playful one-upmanship,” reports Web Urbanist. With representations of religious symbols, politics and communal life, every trinket and dab of paint carries significant meaning. The movement is so strong that the regional origin of a driver and his vehicle can be determined just by looking at the trimming or iconography. “While Sindh is famous for camel bone work, Balochistan and Peshawari fleet owners prefer wood trimmings,” explains Web Urbanist.

Michael Boitin on Flickr

The truck art-inspired fashion of Manish Arora.

“Each brush stroke is done by a human, not any machine,” writes Khadija, a Pakistani art blogger. “Many artists, designers and fashion designers are inspired by truck art.” Influences of truck art are especially evident in the garments designed by Deepak Perwani and Manish Arora. While Perwani stays true to his Pakistani roots, Arora pulls inspiration from his Indian heritage, where truck art is also extremely popular.

Much like graffiti, truck art is developed and practiced by the local community, carrying deeply personal messages that are almost impossible to translate in a gallery setting. All too often, “national treasures” sit behind hermetically sealed glass for future generations to behold, while the art that most thoroughly represents a culture lives and breathes in the streets. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to get paintbrushes into the hands of American truck drivers and see what they come up with. What if every 18-wheeler that rumbled by on the highway featured a technicolor window into its operator’s soul?

For more examples of Pakistani truck art, check out these amazing images on Flickr.

More Noted Posts | Art Category

4 Featured Comments

  • littleeyedesigns

    littleeyedesigns said 6 years ago Featured

    So fantastic -- I have been pondering doing something similar to my 2001 Nissan Altima when the rust begins to overtake the silver finish -- it's nice to brainstorm what my homage to my personal heritage might look like!

  • LaBellaJoya

    LaBellaJoya said 6 years ago Featured

    I've had the opportunity to travel to the Middle East and everytime I go, we stop by the construction sites to take a look at the latest truck art. It's a bright splash of color against an otherwise dreary and dusty desert.

  • KayleesKloset

    KayleesKloset said 6 years ago Featured

    My husband was deployed in Afghanistan/Pakistan, and they loved when the "jingle trucks" would come through the compounds! He searched everywhere for model "jingle trucks" to bring home for our son.

  • henatayeb

    henatayeb said 6 years ago Featured

    As a Pakistani myself.. I feel deeply proud to see it represented here.. and in a positive light which has come to be such a rarity.

75 comments

  • redhardwick

    redhardwick said 6 years ago

    Beautiful! This world definitely needs more color!

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush said 6 years ago

    That would definately be wild to see a rainbow semi flying down the 405, haha! I am absolutely in love with the truck art skirt!

  • MSCollective

    MSCollective said 6 years ago

    I would love to drive so much more if I were surrounded by these colorful trucks. Road rage would cease to exist!

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 6 years ago

    Amazing mobile works of art, it must be quite a painstaking task to cover an entire truck in detailed patterns!

  • pulpsushi

    pulpsushi said 6 years ago

    Wow! These are amazing. I've seen pictures of these in the past but didn't know the history behind them. Amazing!

  • littleeyedesigns

    littleeyedesigns said 6 years ago Featured

    So fantastic -- I have been pondering doing something similar to my 2001 Nissan Altima when the rust begins to overtake the silver finish -- it's nice to brainstorm what my homage to my personal heritage might look like!

  • dekoprojects

    dekoprojects said 6 years ago

    Thousands of dollars? Rather hard to believe.

  • StuffByKim

    StuffByKim said 6 years ago

    Kinda like their version of "The Partridge Family Bus" I love it and would love to see more of it in the USA.

  • VintageEye

    VintageEye said 6 years ago

    I lived in Turkey for two years & saw some colorful trucks there but these are truly magnificent!

  • bayousalvage

    bayousalvage said 6 years ago

    9th wonder of the world right there in pakistan

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 said 6 years ago

    Amazing! So much nicer than our boring grey, silver and beige cars.

  • MootiDesigns

    MootiDesigns said 6 years ago

    Beautiful colors! Interesting truck.

  • MerCurios

    MerCurios said 6 years ago

    I need that Madonna skirt!

  • TheScarfTree

    TheScarfTree said 6 years ago

    So beautiful and so much detail! Wow! I would love to see more photo's of different ones!

  • TheIDconnection

    TheIDconnection said 6 years ago

    I love all the colors. We need more color in the world for sure!

  • pinksnakejewelry

    pinksnakejewelry said 6 years ago

    Great article!!!! Stunning Imagery!!!

  • vintagejane

    vintagejane said 6 years ago

    BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!!!!!

  • VivaGailBeads

    VivaGailBeads said 6 years ago

    the detail and color are amazing!

  • AliceCloset

    AliceCloset said 6 years ago

    Wooow!! So cool ^___^ I love these trucks!

  • lovelygifts

    lovelygifts said 6 years ago

    Beautiful! Great article!

  • CarryTheWord

    CarryTheWord said 6 years ago

    That's awesome!

  • woodguy32

    woodguy32 said 6 years ago

    But Nothing better then the Great American HOTROD.. a Deuce Highboy Roadster.. The Perfect masterpiece.. Wood

  • ThePeachTree

    ThePeachTree said 6 years ago

    Awesome!

  • bhangtiez

    bhangtiez said 6 years ago

    Wow! So amazing!

  • HibouCards

    HibouCards said 6 years ago

    Wow! I love bright colors and so I am enjoying this :)

  • mermaidclaire

    mermaidclaire said 6 years ago

    Cool! Reminds me of the jeepneys of the Philippines: http://www.flickr.com/groups/philippinejeepneys/pool/

  • LaBellaJoya

    LaBellaJoya said 6 years ago Featured

    I've had the opportunity to travel to the Middle East and everytime I go, we stop by the construction sites to take a look at the latest truck art. It's a bright splash of color against an otherwise dreary and dusty desert.

  • HouseOfMoss

    HouseOfMoss said 6 years ago

    Reminds me of Gypsy caravans! I wish our trucks in the USA looked like that.

  • delightfullyvintage

    delightfullyvintage said 6 years ago

    Fantastic and colorful pieces of art! We need that in the U.S. for rush hour! It sure would make the time go by a little easier.

  • OuterKnits

    OuterKnits said 6 years ago

    Nice. Cheerful!

  • JustOffNormal

    JustOffNormal said 6 years ago

    I can't imagine some of those beaded ones tooling down an American interstate at 75mph. You would get a beaded shower!

  • MaJentaDesigns

    MaJentaDesigns said 6 years ago

    wow so many bursts of color, never knew about these before!

  • QualityStitchez

    QualityStitchez said 6 years ago

    Reminds me of my overseas experience in 2004 and they are truly the same in person as in the pictures. I have very fond memories of the kindness and hospitality of those precious people that work so hard. Katee

  • 26Sorts

    26Sorts said 6 years ago

    Wow wow wow! It makes me want to hop on a plane to Pakistan. This is so inspiring!

  • AukinasGoddess

    AukinasGoddess said 6 years ago

    love this.. .so inspiring. thank you. :)

  • KayleesKloset

    KayleesKloset said 6 years ago Featured

    My husband was deployed in Afghanistan/Pakistan, and they loved when the "jingle trucks" would come through the compounds! He searched everywhere for model "jingle trucks" to bring home for our son.

  • paramountvintage

    paramountvintage said 6 years ago

    so vibrant and eclectic. very beautiful!

  • larajb217

    larajb217 said 6 years ago

    very inspiring..... thanks!

  • MandyBesek

    MandyBesek said 6 years ago

    Wow! I had no idea such a thing existed, what an incredibly intricate art form, it's beautiful!

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage said 6 years ago

    Interesting article and beautiful !

  • Officeboy01

    Officeboy01 said 6 years ago

    "I miss u" sums up this article- seems like the 70s in America

  • mehndiart09

    mehndiart09 said 6 years ago

    This brings back so many memories for me. Having seen them in person, it certainly is quite a colorful landscape, except for when they are coming towards you at 100 miles an hour on a mountain...not to mention the street is only big enough for one car......However, the trucks were such a vivid memory from my visit to Pakistan that one of my first paintings in high school was the Pakistani truck! I think it's still sitting in my garage. lol Thanks so much for sharing.

  • tiltomorrow

    tiltomorrow said 6 years ago

    Colorful!!!

  • fbstudiovt

    fbstudiovt said 6 years ago

    So...why is it that we insist on driving boring cars in this country? Artists unite! Let's decorate our vehicles!!!!

  • tiltomorrow

    tiltomorrow said 6 years ago

    Colorful! Looks like a reflection of Woodstock all over again.

  • tiltomorrow

    tiltomorrow said 6 years ago

    I would wreck out!!! LOL.

  • Iammie

    Iammie said 6 years ago

    Amazing!

  • FabricFascination

    FabricFascination said 6 years ago

    I've often wondered why our cars are usually so boringly one color. These are great.

  • DarwinsDress

    DarwinsDress said 6 years ago

    Oh I would love to see all cars painted in many colors, what a fabulous psychedelic dream! I agree, our current US cars are the most boring looking transportation in the history of mobility, and why? I don't think our souls or minds are that boring so why are the vehicles that transport us out into the world? Hooray for Pakistan and their painted trucks and bright fabulous colors!

  • Wingnut51

    Wingnut51 said 6 years ago

    I want one of those trucks. They are totally art on wheels and such an unique idea.

  • megaretail

    megaretail said 6 years ago

    what a great truck!

  • randomnicole

    randomnicole said 6 years ago

    Next weeks diy project...decking out my jetta like those trucks...I'm envisioning a woodland scene....

  • JennasRedRhino

    JennasRedRhino said 6 years ago

    I don't see a mud flap girl anywhere.....

  • AdornmentsNYC

    AdornmentsNYC said 6 years ago

    wow - great post! Thanks for sharing!

  • RachelBollmanDesign

    RachelBollmanDesign said 6 years ago

    Wow, such beautiful color, very inspiring! My work is usually very subdued in color so I admire this boldness. Just saw the work of Robert Morgan at the Folk Art Museum in Morehead, KY, it reminds me of this! Here is the link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/23280022@N08/5880359521/

  • atelierpompadour

    atelierpompadour said 6 years ago

    really inspiring!!Thanks for sharing!

  • cloecesna

    cloecesna said 6 years ago

    Thank you so much for the beautiful art, and great article!

  • tiltomorrow

    tiltomorrow said 6 years ago

    Going to the library in the morning to look for some art books. I need to brush up on my color palette's.

  • carambas

    carambas said 6 years ago

    Very interesting! I've seen "truck art" also in Panama and Colombia, it is a tradition over there too. Amazing how people that are not in contact at all (this was before globalisation of course) express themselves using similar media.

  • artistgretch123

    artistgretch123 said 6 years ago

    reminds me of the 70s and painted volkswagon vans and school buses. painted by the flower children of the 70s.

  • Officeboy01

    Officeboy01 said 6 years ago

    I with you artistgretch123, the bus does look like a 70s bus. Just missing the peace symbols and folks with the long hair:)

  • Officeboy01

    Officeboy01 said 6 years ago

    Maybe I am blind, what is on the model's head? Is that hair or a hat?

  • tiltomorrow

    tiltomorrow said 6 years ago

    Wow! I'm at another music festival. I missed my best friend today!

  • Officeboy01

    Officeboy01 said 6 years ago

    Dancing and holding hands with a colorful

  • Officeboy01

    Officeboy01 said 6 years ago

    I found the Five Fresh Ideas to Decorate Your Living Room article interesting. Some wonderful ideas are listed in this article.

  • tiltomorrow

    tiltomorrow said 6 years ago

    I just ran into my cousins, she is 9 and I just tought her how to dance! What a blast.

  • henatayeb

    henatayeb said 6 years ago Featured

    As a Pakistani myself.. I feel deeply proud to see it represented here.. and in a positive light which has come to be such a rarity.

  • DamaUSA

    DamaUSA said 6 years ago

    Amazing stuff...Beautiful!

  • abbyberkson

    abbyberkson said 6 years ago

    WOW. wow. thank you for this- so inspiring.

  • FlowerLand85

    FlowerLand85 said 6 years ago

    So amazing! Great post! II like to know the folk art, it's a great source of inspirations! I'd like Turkish art for colors and varity of symbols and decorations.

  • gemagenta

    gemagenta said 6 years ago

    WOW love it :) Search for "Fileteado Porteño" for the popular art shown also in old buses, cars, and bars in Buenos Aires, is lovely.

  • FreakyPeas

    FreakyPeas said 6 years ago

    WOW is the right word for this. I hope the crash ratio is low for those trucks are amazing.

  • zeshuregi

    zeshuregi said 6 years ago

    I am Lucky to be a Pakistani! My Goodness :) I enjoy watching these trucks daily at our roads ! I really like to to share this with you all.. Thanks for the Feature !

  • Tina7383

    Tina7383 said 6 years ago

    You all should follow the link to the flicker site mentioned. The photos there are BEAUTIFUL and REALLY showcase the craftsmanship.

  • QuirkMuseum

    QuirkMuseum said 6 years ago

    Nice trucks Pakistan. Except for the occasional hot rods, art cars and graffiti trucks, most of our US vehicles are pretty boring. Thanks for the art!

Sign in to add your own