Artist uses trucks as a canvas for social messages

Artist uses trucks as a canvas for social messages
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Artist uses trucks as a canvas for social messages
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Artist uses trucks as a canvas for social messages
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Artist uses trucks as a canvas for social messages
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Artist uses trucks as a canvas for social messages
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Updated 31 October 2018

Artist uses trucks as a canvas for social messages

Artist uses trucks as a canvas for social messages
  • Hayat aims to promote women’s rights through his art in Pakistan
  • Vehicles are like moving billboards, Unesco worker who conceptualized the idea says

PESHAWAR: At first glance, they resemble trucks like any other in Pakistan, painted in a myriad of colors and adorned with several accessories.
That is until one looks at the rear end of these vehicles.
At the back of each truck are images of women and girls, depicting a unique and powerful social message, and brought to fruition by truck artist, Hayat Khan.
Hayat has been painting colorful portraits of various celebrities on the back of trucks for the past 45 years, at the request of the owners who wanted to make their vehicles stand out. The portraits ranged from photos of film stars to military generals with former military chief, General Raheel Sharif, being the most popular choice off late.
However, it was in 2003, that Hayat, 55, had a brush with destiny when renowned filmmaker and anthropologist, Samar Minallah Khan, asked him if he had ever considered the idea of promoting girl’s education through his art. Hayat accepted the challenge and began painting the trucks, each brushstroke more powerful than other, and to highlight a social cause that was the need of the hour.
This was 15 years ago.
Today, Hayat, a father of five, actively champions the initiative through his extremely popular truck art, which he admits wasn’t easy to begin with, especially since he had to convince local truck owners to change their preferences and opt for messages which encouraged people to think – such as “education is power” and “education is light,” something which he believes is a basic right which should be extended to all children.
The end result was that, through his art, he has been able to educate the masses about sensitive topics such as a woman’s right to inheritance and speaking up against domestic violence.
Hayat says he realized the success of his initiative after a truck driver asked him to decorate his four oil tankers with similar messages.
“This was something new which attracted my heart,” Abdul Karim, the truck driver, said. “I like the picture where a young girl, with books in her hand and a school bag is under a thick green tree going to school,” Karim said “I think time has come to put something meaningful on our trucks and guide the people living in rural regions of the country.”
Hayat concurs, adding that since the trucks are driven through far-flung areas, they are the ideal platform to create awareness about a social cause or concern.
However, his journey to success has not been without its share of hurdles and deterrents. “Even now people object to the paintings of women and girls reasoning that it is against religion,” Hayat told Arab News.
He added that with the passage of time, word of his work has spread and he is now getting orders from not just Peshawar but from Multan, Rawalpindi, Taxila and Kohistan, too.
Samar, on her part, says that she was always sure of Hayat’s success. As an active worker with Unesco lloking to promote girls’ education, Samar told Arab News that the reason she chose the idea was because trucks were such an indispensable part of the country’s landscape and transport sector.
“Trucks are like moving billboards. They travel day and night. I believe that in order to reach out to the audience at the grass roots level, it is important to find innovative means and tools that resonate with them and their traditions,” she said.
She added that she was able to work on a recent project with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank to promote literacy among the women in Punjab. The idea struck a chord with resident truck owners and drivers, with more than a dozen agreeing to be a part of the initiative.
Ahmed Nawaz is a truck driver from the Chakwal region of the Punjab province and drives his own truck. In Peshawar recently for some maintenance work, he said: “Truck artists are also available in Chakwal but [Hayat] Khan’s expertise is incomparable.”
Nawaz added that he prefers the pictures of beautiful actresses and sceneries on his truck but now he understands that was a futile exercise. “I think such portraits would bring positive change in the society and I want other truck drivers to follow the new trend,” he said, even as Hayat got to work by cleaning Nawaz’s truck and placing his tools in place.
“Today I am writing something different. It’s related to child marriages,” he said as he slowly began to sketch out the contours of his message “marrying daughters at a minor age is an offensive crime.”