Artists in Pakistan use vibrant paint and various ornaments to decorate trucks from roof to wheels.
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SM Rafiq/Getty Images
This artist incorporates organic shapes and fluorescent flowers into his design.
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Rizwan Tabassum/Getty Images
Every truck is unique to a driver’s route.
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Muhammad Bashir Osman/Getty Images
Each design includes culturally symbolic images.
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Irfan Chudhary/Barcroft India/Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Art on the Road
Traditional truck art parades through the streets of Pakistan

Amanda DeNatale | for Scholastic Art

You might have passed a massive white truck on the road recently and didn’t even notice it drive by. In North America, commuters see plain, uninteresting trucks on highways and in most neighborhoods every day. But in the South Asian country of Pakistan, ordinary trucks are bright, mobile canvases, and emblems of the communities they serve.

Dynamic Details

Truck art has been a Pakistani tradition for decades. Since the 1950s, artists throughout the country have brought these vehicles to life. They cover the trucks’ surfaces in ornate patterns painted in vibrant, attention-grabbing hues. In the past, artists decorated the vehicles using paint as their only medium. Today they add intricately designed embellishments, including bells, flags, or other three-dimensional ornaments in various shapes and sizes.

Route Representation

Truck drivers often spend long days and nights on the open road in their vehicles. For this reason, they work with artists to design their trucks so that each vehicle is both personally and culturally significant.

For many drivers, locations along their truck routes feel like home. So it makes perfect sense that they’d want their vehicles to reflect their geographic pride. The artists responsible for the eye-catching designs incorporate symbolic details that represent the specific characteristics of the cities and towns on a driver’s route. These range from depictions of animals common to a certain region to community flags.

Drivers’ tastes in truck designs vary according to the images that are culturally important to the neighborhoods he or she drives through. Haji Ali Bahadur is a truck driver whose route is on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. “We, the drivers of Khyber, Mohmand, and other tribal regions, like flowers on the edge of the vehicles,” Bahadur says. “The people of Swat, South Waziristan, and Kashmir region like portraits of mountains and different wild animals.”

Cherished Traditions

Despite the differences among Pakistan’s various truck designs and routes, Pakistani truck drivers do have one thing in common: a fondness for the vehicles and the regions they know like the backs of their hands. Driver Mohammad Khan believes truck art is one of Pakistan’s most valuable traditions. “After all, a truck is a driver’s pride and joy,” he says.