In the infographic above, we have put together a brief history of a popular form of decoration commonly seen in South Asia called the ‘Truck Art’. Using art and creativity to stand out from competition in business is a very valuable skill, and truck art has its roots on this very basic need. The visualization above tries to put a timeline around the history of this industry in Pakistan which is very underrated and undocumented. Growing up in Pakistan, I have seen this around me and have taken it pretty much for granted while underestimating the amount of skills and work that goes into designing and maintaining it. The amount of time and effort it took us to design this infographic made us realize the tough job these artists do on the trucks. The designer of this infographic Khurram can tell you more about the amount of work he had to do to put this infographic up.
What is truck art?
Truck art is a genre of folk art in South Asia, with Pakistani and Indian trucks decorated with various patterns and calligraphy (You can learn more here). Such trucks are also known as “jingle trucks” for their jingling exterior decorations typically hanging from their bumpers. In Pakistan, the main hub for the truck art is in Karachi, the largest commercial city in Pakistan, although it is widely observed across the country with regional variations.
Patterns may traditionally contain flowers, animals, nature, geometry, and calligraphy. Recent years have seen more variations to include so-called celebrities, such as Princess Diana and both domestic and international movie stars. It may cost up to $10,000 and may take months to decorate a truck, depending on how fancy the decorations are.
History and timeline
As is often the case with folk art, there are various theories about the origin of truck art, but the subcontinent always had a culture to decorate camels or horses that had been used for transportation and trade, wishing safe journey and business prosperity.
Amid colonization and industrialization, Bedford trucks imported to the region started to be seen decorated with painting and panelling on their bodies. 70s to 80s witnessed more elaborated and defined art with complicated patterns and embellishment, sometimes even including movie scenes. Public transport such as buses and tuktuks also hopped on the bandwagon around 90s.
In recent years, the colourful and lively Pakistani truck art has been recognized by the fashion industry, inspiring some of the famous international fashion brands. Truck art today is not only seen on roads but also on various products, such as clothes, mugs, and home décor items.