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

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say 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.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid