Truck Art!


Edited By: Tejaswini Vondivillu


Art is an expression of self, culture, identity and thought. It can be expressed via multitudinal platforms. Performing arts such as dance and drama use the medium of rhythm, action, dialogue and grace, while in fine arts these movements are very skillfully portrayed with the stroke of their brush. In recent times, the distinctive “Truck Art” has caught the attention of the public. It is a feature exclusive to lorries and ‘trucks’ as is known in the South Asian continent. The gifted artisan of the area help the truck owners reflect their thoughts, culture and self .

Commuting is an essential part of our daily lives. Navigating through traffic is an almost mundane task. However, something that is unique to the Indian roads is the bright coloured trucks. Trucks were first introduced in India during World War Ⅱ. Initially, they were used to carry arms and ammunition, but today trucks form the backbone of the Indian economy. There are over 8.5 million trucks running on the Indian roads. They relay goods throughout the vast expanse of the country by traversing roads ranging from remote areas to the big metropolitan cities across India. The sight of these vibrant trucks and the sound of their idiosyncratic horns  jazz up the sullen rhythm of the traffic. 

These trucks tread the roads for long hours and continue for many days,hence they become ‘home’ to the drivers. Since the truck owners are separated from their homes for a long time, they decorate their trucks in order to give them an essence of  their ‘home’ during their long journey. They do this the following way. First, trucks are painted with a base colour, which is often a bright and eye-catching hue. On top of this base colour, there are various designs and phrases written calligraphically. Some of these represent the culture and religion of the owner, while some trucks simply spread a message of nationalism. Many owners also chose to adorn their trucks with tassels. All in all, they not only serve as a three-dimensional canvas to the artisans or the craftsmen to showcase their talents, but also help the truck owners to impart their identities to these humongous vehicles. 

Truck art is gaining popularity throughout the country and there many artisans who are venturing into this business. For long, Punjab has been the hub for “Truck art”. Most often people use the phrase “newly wedded Indian bride” to describe the flamboyant designs of these trucks. These designs include interesting psychedelic art, slogans and culture that travel throughout the country, displaying the plethora of culture that has brewed in India over the years.  These trucks  also act as a canvas to some of the most iconic phrases that are engraved in the minds of the average Indian commuter - “Horn Ok Please” and “use dipper at night” among  many others. These trucks belong to various people, who come from dynamic backgrounds .Yet there is a sense of familiarity and resonance across the country.

These magnificent and scintillating lorries are not only peculiar to the Indian subcontinent, they are also widespread throughout South Asia, especially in Pakistan and Bangladesh. This has made them into an instrument for advocacy. For instance, UNESCO has been using these moving murals to campaign for education of ‘girl child’. Particularly, in the  Kohistan district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, this unique art form blended with indegious motifs has been employed to spread the message of literacy for girl children. They help in spreading an extremely empowering message in a culturally sensitive manner, because these graffiti on a truck are widely identifiable and acceptable by the public. 

All in all, people may view trucks as a mode of transportation or a vehicle used for imports and export. However trucks in South Asia are symbolic to the ever changing society and the immortality of culture. Truck art is a perfect amalgamation between the budding economy that is characteristic of these developing countries and their age old culture that travels through time. This expression is wonderfully brought out by the expertise of an artist and the knowledge of an automobile engineer who built the truck.