HIGH KITSCH ON THE HIGHWAY

THE BROADER PICTURE

IN BRITAIN, we sometimes refer to our lorries as the Kings of the Road. In Pakistan, they are always Queens. Painted in vivid colours and adorned with rosewood carvings, the trucks are often things of extraordinary beauty: moving expressions of their (male) drivers' love for their vehicles.

Brightly-painted wagons are a long-standing tradition in many Asian countries, including India and Indonesia, and in Paki-stan nearly all forms of transport rickshaws, buses, horse-drawn carriages, even bicycles are decorated. But Pakistan's heavy goods vehicles stand out for the sheer lavishness and intricacy of their ornamentation: this is truck-decoration as serious art.

Surprisingly, it is a relatively young art. Its founder is thought to have been the painter Ustad Allah Baksh, who in 1947 left his native Kutch for Dera Ghazi Khan, a dusty city in the centre of the newly formed state of Pakistan. Finding no demand there for his skills (he had been a painter of frescos for the nobility), he turned his attentions to the goods trucks that he kept encountering. There were already spray-painted trucks in the north of the country, but Ustad Allah Baksh's son Yusuf claims that proper truck-painting as it exists today, using bold enamel paints, owes its origins to his father. It is certainly true that, despite the intricately decorated trucks that are found in every large Pakistani city, Dera Ghazi Khan remains the undisputed centre of high truck art.

The subject matter of the paintings on the trucks, whatever region they come from, is often similar. Patriotism finds expression in pictures of national flags, monuments and political leaders, from General Ayub Khan to Benazir Bhutto. Fights between lions and snakes symbolise the triumph of good over evil. Pastoral scenes of lakes, waterfalls, snow-covered peaks and forests are meta-phors for the promised paradise of Islam. And, in recent years, portraits of voluptuous film stars have begun to appear, along with renderings of rifles and weapons of war, reflecting ways in which life has changed in modern Pakistan. Many of the trucks boast intricately cut-out metalwork, laboriously hammered by hand before being painted, and it is a matter of pride among drivers to see who can festoon his vehicle with the most mascots, badges, fringes, flashing lights, streamers and tassels. Every available inch of space is covered.

Street poetry, too, adorns the mudguards of many trucks. Crude but pungent couplets exhort all to tread the straight and narrow, refrain from casting the evil eye and reward loyalty with a tender glance. The couplets can be ribald, witty or sanctimonious ("A mother's prayer is like the breeze of heaven"), depending upon the driver's political, social and emotional affiliations.

Driver are willing to pay thousands of pounds on the decoration of a single truck, which takes place at one of the many workshops that are found in every city. Indeed, adorning a truck often costs a driver more than he might pay for a bride which may explain why truckers often refer to their newly-decorated trucks as their brides. Indeed, the average truck driver probably spends far more time in his truck than in the company of his wife which is the other side of the story.

For all its external colour, a truck driver's life is gruelling and monotonous. "One day I'm in Rawalpindi, the next day in Lahore," said Nazakat Ali, a driver from Hazara. "I do that every day of the year, except the two Eids [religious festivals]. I always travel with another driver; while I sleep, he drives. But neither of us ever sleeps for more than two hours at a stretch. I go carefully, but sometimes exhaustion makes you careless. When your time comes, it comes," he added, with a shrug. "A dark veil descends before your eyes and the angels drag you away."'!

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
TVDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
Arts and Entertainment
Laugh a minute: Steph Parker with Nigel Farage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Comic Ivor Dembina has staged his ‘Traditional Jewish Xmas Eve Show’ for the past 20 years; the JNF UK charity is linked to the Jewish National Fund, set up to fund Jewish people buying land in Palestinian territories
comedy

Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?