News / USA

Pakistani Truck Artist Brings Color to American Roads

Mobile works of art are creating a buzz in the U.S.

Pakistani truck and bus artist Ghulam Sarwar stands in front of a car he recently painted.
Pakistani truck and bus artist Ghulam Sarwar stands in front of a car he recently painted.

The highways and city streets of Pakistan flow with colorful, ostentatiously painted trucks and buses, a tradition of intricate ornamentation that dates back centuries.

While it’s unlikely U.S. roads will be filled with these vivid vehicles any time soon, one Pakistani artist is starting to change that. And, if the attention his cars are receiving is any indication, there could be a large demand for his ornate artwork.

Ghulam Sarwar has been in the truck and bus painting business for 35 years in his native Pakistan, but he first gained attention in the U.S. in 2009, during an arts festival in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Abigail Adams-Greenway, an artist living in Bethesda, Maryland, had her car painted by Sarwar and said she first saw some of the furniture he’d painted at a market in Washington, DC.

“I was completely transfixed by it. I had to have a chair,” she said. “Later we bought a lot of furniture and other accessories. I call it the ‘Ghulamization’ of my house.”

Her collection of Sarwar’s art culminated when she commissioned him to paint her Kia Sorento.

“The basic patterns are the same as you’d see on a bus or truck in Pakistan,” said Sarwar.

But as trucks and buses are personalized in Pakistan, Adam-Greenway’s car is adorned with symbols that have great meaning to her. Her dogs make an appearance in two panels, and in the front, there is a painting of brightly colored lips, something for which she says she’s known.

The car gets a lot of attention.

“I get notes left on the car inquiring about it or thanking me for ‘blessing the environment with this car,” she said. “People leave their numbers asking who painted it.”

She said a few weeks ago, someone actually pulled up next to her and frantically motioned for her to pull over. They wanted to know about the car, where it was done and how they could get their car painted. Sarwar is now putting the finishing touches on it, the fourth vehicle he’s painted in the States so far.

“It’s a beautiful piece of folk art, and if something were to happen to me, I’d like to have it go to a museum,” Adams-Greenway said.

In Pakistan, the brightly colored trucks and buses are customized to show off where the vehicle and driver are from, or to pay homage to a famous movie star or a well-known military leader. Some trucks may be adorned with quotes from movies or verses from poems.

Sarwar, who is from Peshawar, said sometimes the slogans can be humorous such as “don’t cross me” or bragging, like “come beautify yourself in our village.”

But it’s not just about looks. The decorative painting creates a good mood for the drivers, says Sarwar.

“Basically the painting puts them in a spiritual space. It really helps the driver relax despite the stressful lifestyle,” he added.

But the real motivation behind elaborate bus painting is to stand apart from the crowd and attract more riders.

While Sarwar learned truck painting from his father, his early career took a detour during which he painted posters advertising upcoming movies. He says he did that for about 10 years.

But his workplace was near a large bus depot, and Sarwar wanted to bring his own style to the buses he saw every day.

Sarwar said it takes between seven to 10 days to finish a car, but added that sometimes he becomes so enthralled in the work, he can easily work 14 to 16 hours a day. The cost  to paint a car in the U.S. ranges from $2,000 to $3,000 depending on the size of the car. In Pakistan, the average per capita income is around $1,200, according to the Pakistani Federal Bureau of Statistics.

Sarwar is returning to Pakistan in November after spending several months in the United States. He says he’s eager to come back.

“I didn’t know so many people would come ask me to paint cars,” he said.

You May Like

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid