In recent years, truck art has become something that represents the chaotic, diverse yet earthy urban culture of Pakistan.
But the truck art culture is also very male dominated; all the truck owners are men, and the images they choose, of mustached Punjabi heroes, or women in seductive poses, are not very female friendly, to say the least.
But this might be changing, one truck at a time. As unseemly as this may sound, some truck artists are actually championing the cause of women rights. Recently, images of trucks with progressive messages have been going around on the internet that support girl’s education, speak against child marriages and raise awareness about the issues.
In a few interviews carried out by Gulf News, they came across Hajji Khan, a truck driver from Peshawar. Previously, he reports, his truck carried images of a film star but a truck painter from Peshawar recommended Khan to adopt an image of a girl in a school uniform, holding books. With this image is a message written in Urdu: “Education is the basic right of a girl. Send your daughters to school.” The artist suggested the message and image because he thought this would work to raise awareness and curb a social evil, Khan says he agreed, hence adorned his precious truck with the message.
“Truck art is a big source of publicity as the vehicle roams from Khyber to Karachi and its target audience is the rural population where most of these evil practices prevail,” said Samar Minallah, a social worker, anthropologist, documentary filmmaker and the architect of this programme.
She came up with this idea through discussions with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and UNESCO, who are now financing her project.
She said a truck workshop owner Hayat Khan extended his cooperation and played a pivotal role in convincing truck drivers to change the paintings. She also said that Hayat Khan talks to every arriving truck driver to his workshop about the initiative. The payment for these paintings is made by ADB and UNESCO, an incentive for truck drivers to abandon portraits of movie actors in favour of images with a positive message.
“Truck art is our profession and after launching of this project, we are now painting good pictures having a public message,” said Hayat Khan.
Not only is this an effective measure to raise awareness for the issue but it is also accessible to the population that needs this message the most. It is inspiring how the effort of one woman are turning around the masculine field of truck art, which now aims to help young girls attend school.