Explanation: Pakistani ‘Truck Art’ – His Journey to Appreciation and Special Tribute to Musiwala

Why is truck art important in Pakistan?

The space is special because it is usually dedicated to Pakistani national heroes and actors/singers.

Imran Khan’s photo on a truck. (Express Photo)

Painter Haji Naz, 65, from Peshawar, who has spent more than five decades drawing portraits on trucks in Pakistan, says the face drawn on a truck symbolizes people’s immense love for that character.

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“In my career, I have painted thousands of trucks. People’s favourites over the years include General Ayub Khan, Major General Raheel Sharif, poet Allama Iqbal and most recently Omran Khan very. From the Pakistani music industry, portraits of singers Atallah Khan Isakhilvi and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan have been drawn extensively. Even today, we get drawing orders for General Ayub Khan and even freedom fighter Abdul Ghaffar Khan… Among women, Benazir Bhutto has always been among the favourites,” says Naz.

He adds that some drivers also draw pictures of their family members, which shows how important space is to them.

Why is the truck a special tribute to Musiwala?

Actresses Divya Bharti, Aishwarya Rai Mamta Kulkarni is among the few Indians whose portraits have been seen painted on trucks in Pakistan so far. “Moosewala is probably the first turbaned Sikh in India to get this space but he’s not the first Indian,” Naz says, adding, “I am drawing pictures of Divya Bharti on trucks so far.”

Divya Bharti’s photo on a truck. (Express Photo)

About Muswala’s popularity in Pakistan, Rizwan Mughal, son of a truck artist from Rawalpindi said: “Because of his humble beginnings and struggles in life, people connect with him here. His songs were close to real life. There is a huge craze for Punjabi songs here.”

Before his murder, Moosewala also promised his fans a tour of Pakistan with live shows in Lahore and Islamabad “before the end of 2022”.

Where did truck art begin, and how did it become popular?

Truck art began in Peshawar and Karachi in the 1950s to meet the demands of truck drivers who wanted to make their trucks look stylish.

Slowly, this unique combination of colors and murals, accompanied by homemade accessories, gained worldwide fame.

In 2019, this art form was used by UNESCO to create awareness of girls’ education in the Kohistan province of Pakistan.

Ijazullah Mughal, whose late father Habib was among the first truck artists in Rawalpindi in 1956, recalls how at the time officials from the Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA) were “mockery” of truck art.

Portrait of Benazir Bhutto on a truck. (Express Photo)

“It was around 1952 when some local artists started painting trucks and number plates and doing woodcarving to beautify them. It was a local art form that traveled the world gaining popularity among foreigners who would come to Pakistan to decorate their old cars. Bedford trucks were discontinued by her company. In the UK, but in Pakistan, it still works and looks brand new because of truck art.Most truck artists are self-taught without fancy degrees, says Mughal.

It is known that people spend 1 lakh rupees to 20 thousand rupees in Pakistani currency to paint their trucks so far. But the art form is slowly fading out.

Photo of Major General Raheel Sharif on a truck. (Express Photo)

“Now there are only a few of them (truck artists) left in Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Karachi who know the original work,” adds Mughal.

Tariq Ustad, a truck artist from Rawalpindi who has been in the profession since 1971, says truck art has become fascinating and more complex over time.

“It was very simple when we started. Earlier, we would complete five trucks a day, now one truck in five days. There were times even some drivers would make truck keys out of gold,” the professor said.

Niaz Gul, a transporter from Peshawar, said there was a trend to decorate buses earlier, but he died over time.

Bhar Ali, another truck artist says: “In some pockets of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) in Pakistan, truck art is still visible because people here are fond of driving trucks. Efforts must be made to preserve this dying heritage. Hamara kaam to har truck ko dulhan ki tarah sajaana hai taaki sab nazrein ussi par tiki rahein (Our job is to decorate every truck like a bride, so people can’t take their eyes off of it).”