Pakistan’s truck art is coming to Dubai

Tribal Truck Art’s founder Anjum Rana says her love for the art form began as a young girl growing up near Peshawar

Pakistan’s famed truck art is coming to Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah – in the form of a restaurant and sports bar. A similar foray is being contemplated by a group of Pakistani expat investors in the Saudi Kingdom and possibly Bahrain, report BE2C2.

Truck art is a common sight in Pakistan, where buses and trucks are decorated to remind their operators of home as they drive far away from their homes, often for months. The art includes colorful paintings, calligraphy, poetry and other decorative changes, such as mirrors, wooden carvings and chains or pendants.

The project is led by Tribal Truck Art, a Pakistan-based organization that works to preserve this unique, home-grown form of folk art, which first became recognizable to many abroad when Western tourists began taking photographs of the heavily painted and ornately decorated trucks plying the roads of Pakistan.

Tribal Truck Art’s founder Anjum Rana says her love for the art form began as a young girl growing up near Peshawar.

“I always admired it. The flowers, the colors, the vibrancy of its lines,” she told Khaleej Times. “Every time a truck went past me, I wrote down the poetry I saw on the truck and admired it.”

Years later, Rana said she decided to get a truck of her own. “I went to all the bus stops in Karachi to get it done. People weren’t used to it, but I told them it was my paint, my money and my work. They thought I might get offended (if she didn’t like it), but I told them what whatever they did, I was going to like it.”

In 2000, Rana founded Tribal Truck Art. Since then, she’s traveled the world, showcasing the art in places as diverse as Paris, Milan, Jakarta and the Heritage Transport Museum in Gurgaon, India. She has used the truck art style to decorate objects ranging from mugs and porcelain plates to fridges and T-shirts. She has even been recognized by Unesco, which gave her the 2008 Award of Excellence for Handicrafts.

Her latest project, at Fairmont the Palm, will see her put truck art to an innovative use – in the form of a restaurant and bar on the hotel’s premises. She expects it will be ready for the public in a few months time.

Rana says that she’s made it her mission to gain public recognition for truck artists, many of whom have very little or no education.

“They do so much good work, but what they do was not widely known as artwork,” she noted. “You wouldn’t say the same things to them as you would to any other (kind) of artist. I took it upon myself to provide a platform for these painters.”

She also noted that in Pakistan, a truck’s decorations are more than art – they are an important way of attracting business for the trucks. “It’s now become very competitive. If you see two trucks standing side by side, but one has the colors faded out and the other one is new, the new truck will be the one which gets hired to carry baggage,” she said.

Additionally, Rana said she believed that preserving truck art is vital in an age in which many young Pakistanis seem to be losing interest.

“Most of (the artist’s) children don’t want to do this job. It’s tedious and takes a lot of hard work. Now they want to make quick money,” she said. “It worries me. So people like us need to sustain the art. It might not be there in the next 20 years, like other folk art.

“It is the youth who should take it forward, set a trend, and invest in this art.”

The several Pakistani expats thinking of a similar hangout in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have somewhat similar views. Branding Pakistan with what’s unique and best already out there about Pakistan is the only way to market the country’s soft image just as other nations do, said lead investor who wished to remain anonymous until the plan is formally announced.

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