Colourful ‘Jingle Trucks’ Rule the Road in Pakistan By Jessica Stewart on April 10, 2018


If you’ve spent any time in South Asia, specifically Pakistan, Afganistan, and India, you’ve surely seen colorful, ornate trucks rumbling down roads and highways. In these countries, especially Pakistan, truck art is more than just cultural expression, it’s also a deeply rooted tradition that can cause a business boom for drivers. So what is the history behind these movings pieces of art? And what is the true meaning of the bold and beautiful designs that engulf these vehicles?


In Pakistan, truck art has origins dating back to the 1920s, when Bedford trucks imported from England invaded the country’s streets. They were fitted with large wooden prows on top of the truck bed. Known as a tajor crown, the ornate prow was also accompanied by decorative bumpers and wood paneling along the cabin. In the late 1940s, when trucks began long-haul journeys to deliver goods, each company designed a logo so that illiterate people would understand who owned the truck.


Over time, these logos became increasingly ornate. “They were badges of competition,” explains Durriya Kazi, head of the department of visual studies at the University of Karachi and an expert in truck art. “And the more flamboyant the design, the better business became.” In the 1950s, Karachi became a hub of truck art—a title it still holds today—when Hajji Hussain, an artist known for his elaborate palace frescoes, settled in town. Lacking palaces to paint, he turned to decorating trucks, and his ornate, floral style pushed the genre forward.


And while truck painting has taken hold in other South Asian countries, as well as South America and Japan, in Pakistan the art form is at a whole other level. An entire industry unto itself, in Karachi alone 50,000 people are employed in workshops dedicated to the craft, with truck drivers willing to spend big money to ensure their truck is better than the rest. While the bright colours and ornate decorations are certainly beautiful, the drivers also view it as a good return on their investment.


“Our clients want to make their trucks stand out,” shares Pakistani artist Haider Ali. “When people look to hire a truck, they feel that if it looks fancy and newly painted, then it’s probably in better condition and they trust it more.” Also known as jingle trucks thanks to the bells festooning the exterior, drivers can easily spend up to $2,500 for a basic paint job, which is two years’ salary. And often, they’ll come back for touchups every few years to keep things fresh.


Kazi also sees truck art as more than a business expense; it’s also a ritual that harkens back to the Sufi tradition of painting shrines to curry religious favour. “Truckers don’t even spend so much money on their own houses,” she shares. “I remember one driver who told me that he put his life and livelihood into the truck. If he didn’t honour it with the proper paint job, he would feel he was being ungrateful.”


In Pakistan, truck drivers can spend up to two years’ salary decorating their vehicles with colourful and ornate art.


They’re also known as jingle trucks, a nickname given by American military in Afganistan, thanks to bells strewn across the bumpers.


The art is seen as a business investment, as potential clients are more likely to hire a truck that’s beautifully painted.


Truck art is also popular in Afganistan and India, as well as Japan and several South American countries.




Trees Grow from Bricks and a Storefront on the Streets of New York by Pejac by LAURA STAUGAITIS from CLOSSAL


Elusive Spanish artist Pejac (previously) travels the world creating street interventions, often integrating natural elements into man-made structures through a combination of stenciling and trompe l’oeil painting. His most recent projects have brought him to New York City for the first time, where he has created two arboreal artworks in Bushwick and Chinatown.

Pejac formed Fossil, in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood, using a brick-sized stencil to spray paint carefully placed shadows on a brick wall. This illusion of bricks sinking back and surging forward  creates a pixelated tree. Chinatown’s Inner Strength is fully hand-painted, depicting a cherry blossom branch growing out of a security gate and surrounding by flying swallows. Pejac, who often addresses humanity’s fraught relationship to the natural world, describes his newest artworks to Colossal: Taking a sturdy structure and familiar urban element as a base, Fossil is proposing a hypothetical fatal future in which the only memory of nature is the fossilized appearance of a tree on a brick wall. Opposing the first work, Inner Strength is an empowering piece portraying another hypothetical future in which nature breaks the barriers imposed by the hand of man, recovering the lost ground along the way.

In addition to his outdoor work, Pejac occasionally creates editioned prints using a variety of techniques ranging from lithography to screenprinting. You can follow the artist’s travels on Instagram and Facebook. For those in New York, Fossil is located at 27 Scott Avenue in Brooklyn, and Inner Strength can be found at 2 Henry Street in Manhattan.