The Pakistani Embassy in Washington, DC recently hosted an exhibit of artwork and artifacts depicting the nation's rich cultural heritage. The centerpiece of the exhibit was a whimsically decorated truck, demonstrating the unique role Pakistani truck art plays in society.
In Pakistan, art is not necessarily confined to galleries; it is also found on the road. More specifically it is found on vehicles on the road.
Truck art is a major part of Pakistani culture.
Jonathon Mark Kenoyer, an anthropology professor at the University of Michigan, says, "The paint jobs identify competing ethnic groups just as the different designs did on ancient pottery and later on fabrics and carpets."
Norma Sparks, president of Friends of Pakistan, is reminded of the time she spent in Pakistan when she sees the truck art. "I spent about 14 years in Pakistan. As soon as I saw the bus, the decorated bus, I just felt quite at home. I used to drive behind them every day. So it's a wonderful art form."
The exhibition commemorates Pakistan's 60th anniversary of independence. It displays beautiful crafts, wall hangings, embroidered shawls and ancient jewelry. By juxtaposing the modern works with the ancient crafts, the exhibition curators seek to link the culture's ancient traditions with modern Pakistani art.
Huma Mustafa Baig is the executive director of Serendip Productions, a television production company in Pakistan. She spoke of Pakistan's unique art form. "When I consider Pakistan's national art form, I immediately think of the truck art. This is part of our culture, and it needs to be exposed to the rest of the world."
The large turnout shows that many Americans are interested in Pakistani art.
Anne Patterson, who was recently nominated as the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, enjoyed the exhibit. "We have been very impressed with the variety and the skill of the Pakistani crafts that are here. I didn't know anything about Pakistani crafts, except my trip to Pakistan and the region. I had bought some of the crafts, but I certainly wouldn't claim to be an expert. But, again, I think they're beautiful."
With a palate as vast as the open road, the only limit on Pakistani truck art is the owner's imagination.