In Pakistan some of the most gorgeous art to be seen anywhere can be found rolling down the street. This is the amazing tradition of “truck art”.  In Pakistani truck art the style is primitive, native and full of inventiveness, and has about it a rare uncontrived quality.

The idea is simple: To make it pretty. Open the door to driver’s seat and look in, the pride and joy of the driver really reaches its peak here: Veritable fairy-tale glitter meets the eye; the surface is richly patterned like good brocade, lights glow everywhere. it is absolute sensation.


[pulledquote]The under-appreciated, indigenous Pakistani tradition of truck painting has an extraordinary history, starting in the days of the Raj. As early as the 1920?s, competing transportation companies would hire craftsmen to adorn their buses in the hopes that these moving canvases would attract more passengers. The technique worked so well that pretty soon you couldn’t purchase a ticket without seeing dozens of beautifully painted trucks waiting to take you to your destination. While the art doesn’t serve the same purpose anymore, it is still as prevalent as ever and has become more intricate and developed a deeper cultural significance over time.[/pulledquote]

Even though truck art isn’t unique toPakistananymore, nowhere else in the world is the practice so pervasive. In a country where the per capita income is barely north of $2,000, it is surprising to see fleet owners (the trucks aren’t owner-operated) spend $3,000-$5,000 per truck for structural modifications that convert these gas-guzzling, smoke-spewing, road-dominating monstrosities into beautiful moving canvases covered in poetry, folk tales, and ‘…religious, sentimental and emotional worldviews of the individuals employed in the truck industry,’ making it one of the biggest forms of representational art in the country.


InPakistaneach province has its own different style of truck painting because moderately different ethnic heritage. While Sindh is famous for camel bone work, Baluchistan andPeshawarprefer wood trimmings, andRawalpindiand Islamabadi trucks favor plastic work. The materials, the color, the arrangement, and the overall art style finally serve as a cultural representative of the region. The colorful flowery patterns, creative feature, calligraphy of poetic verses this form of art is truly a part of Pakistani transport tradition.


Whatever the design, the drivers seem to be in love with their vehicles. The truck-painting practice is said to have been started as a way for drivers to take a reminder of their homes along with them, wherever they went. Today, they say that they decorate their trucks because they love it that way. They participate actively in the decking up process, and hence feel a sense of attachment with their trucks. The art is so popular that some cars and taxis have also been spotted adorned with the paintings.


[pulledquote]This art is so Pakistani, that the freight trucks which are built by Ford, General Motors, Hino Pak etc in beautiful aerodynamic shapes are first retro-fitted with very Pakistani style bodies and a special ‘viewing deck’ at the top of Driver’s cab. The ‘viewing deck’ is a very multipurpose extra space. It is used by ‘cleaners’ to sleep at night and also to load extra luggage when needed.[/pulledquote]


[pulledquote]And not to be outdone, there are decorated trucks inAfghanistantoo. Jingle trucks are by far the most colorful things inAfghanistan. They are brightly painted, with chimes hanging off the front bumper (thus the name), and many are adorned with colorful tassels. These trucks are everywhere, almost as common as cars.[/pulledquote]


[pulledquote]But inventive and creative people are everywhere, and in theUSAin 1964 an earlier version of this (see below) bus travelled from the West to the East coast and back..many times over! Here are some people celebrating its reincarnation and fresh paint job. It’s not Pakistani art but I personally can see some such inspiration there…can you?[/pulledquote]

And below is a photo of the earlier, original FURTHUR, a painted 1960

Harvester school bus…



So never think that traveling must be a drab boring venture. In a decorated truck there is a feast for the eyes and the spirit…proving that sometimes the journey can be just as beautiful and enchanting as the destination…if not more!

By Marrow 8/5/2012