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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs