From the Grand Trunk Road to Route 66 - Truck Art from Pakistan
By Durainaz Faruqi
Pictures by Annie Athar
The essence, soul and spirit of Pakistan were vividly brought to life at a Truck Art Festival organized by the Pakistan Arts Council of the USC Pacific Asia Museum. Entitled “ From the Grand Truck Road to Route 66 “ it showcased the talent of Haider Ali, a young master truck artist from Karachi, who was the artist in residence for three weeks in October. Over the course of this period he transformed a non-descript white Ford van into a vibrant artistic narrative of the folk art of his country. This mobile canvas travelled throughout venues in the Southland including the Artesia International Street Fair and Diversity Festival, the Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk, the USC campus and the Pacific Asia Museum parking lot. Everywhere the eye-catching psychedelic palette of colors brought a smile to passersby and encouraged questions and conversations as all art should.
The journey for Haider Ali began as an exacting apprenticeship when he was seven under the supervision of his father, himself a truck artist. Finally in 2002 his accomplishment reached new heights when the Bedford tuck he decorated became part of the Smithsonian Museum’s permanent collection. Over the years he learned to reflect the demands of his clients in creating advertisements on wheels for their truck companies along with depictions of local flora, fauna, regional monuments and landscapes all spiced with humorous Urdu sayings. In California his hosts asked to incorporate the Hollywood Sign, the California Bear and ocean sunsets. Haider Ali, promoting his message of peace and amity, added the US and Pakistani flags exchanging a bouquet. He wished local government here would collaborate with artists to decorate public transit and that truck art could be offered as a course at community colleges.
At a reception held at the Pacific Asia Museum Mrs Hina Abidi, President of the Pakistan Arts Council, moderated a discussion about the similarity between painting low rider cars in East LA by Mexican Americans and truck art painting in Pakistan. Both are conceptually the same: the need to declare identity, a motivation to stand out and apart but in the end to be understood.