PESHAWAR: A truck artist from northwestern Pakistan, who was put out of business after the coronavirus disease outbreak, has seen his prospects change with a little bit of artistic innovation.
For 25 years, Siyar Khan was one of many artisans painting the traditional bright trucks that add color and humor to Pakistani roads.
But when the pandemic came, and virus-related restrictions ensued, small workshops like his were forced to shut down — and Khan was forced to look beyond the canvas of trucks.
“Coronavirus almost ruined my small earnings when the truck stands closed,” Khan told Arab News at his small shop in Sarband, on the outskirts of Peshawar.
“During that very hard time, one day, I painted teacups, a kettle and also children’s shoes and posted on social media. I got immense response and orders.”
One of the orders came from the home of the Peshawar Corps’ commander, where Khan was asked to decorate the walls of a guest hall with truck-art motifs.
Recently, the artist completed an assignment at Peshawar’s Pearl Continental Hotel, and is now receiving requests to decorate other properties.
Middlemen have also started to approach Khan for projects in Islamabad and Lahore.
“I recently painted a rickshaw for an American restaurant and a motorcycle for a German diplomat, a bicycle for another customer and dozens of kettles. More orders are pending” he said.
“I can paint each and everything that exists in this world.”
Khan learnt the traditional craft when he quit school after the seventh grade, and his uncle brought him to a truck artist’s store on Peshawar’s Ring Road.
“For nine years, I was an apprentice with the truck artist, and then, with his permission, I began my own truck art profession in a small shop,” he said.
“For years, I was earning a meagre amount, and I would paint a truck every two or three days.”
For each truck, Khan used to earn about 4,000 rupees ($25). But with his new projects, he said, he can make up to 10,000 rupees in a single day, which allows him to pay for his children’s school.
For Khan, the pandemic came as a blessing in disguise.
“It was an opportunity in the toughest challenge. I coped successfully, and now I am very happy ... and also very busy.”