Portrait of a truck artist

Seyar Khan is keeping truck art and himself alive on the streets of Peshawar

With the introduction of printable graphics, the local art of painting trucks with beautiful murals is dying out. Painting attractive sights, beautiful animals and picturesque sceneries on trucks is mainly associated with Asian countries such as Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. The history of the art goes back to 1920s when the first mechanical trucks were introduced here.The News on Sunday recently talked to Seyar Khan, a Peshawar-based artist who has been associated with the profession for 25 years.

The News on Sunday (TNS): How did you start?

Seyar Khan (SK): I learned the art from two of the most esteemed truck artists: Ashtaf Ustad and Waris Ustad. For 20 years, I had a partner. Then we had to separate after our earnings dropped with the popularity of computer generated designs.

TNS: What happened then?

SK: We were not making as much as Rs 600 a week. My partner said he could no longer go on. We were both on the brink of starvation. There was not much work and we even stopped visiting our workshop. I then decided to start painting on other objects as well. This saved me from financial ruin and kept me going.

TNS: How did you change your work?

SK: I started working on smaller things such as shoes, handbags, teapots, cups, cars, motorcycles and walls. Some of these sell easily.

TNS: Tell us something about your love for truck art?

“Truck art is much appreciated in developed countries such as America and Europe. Foreign tourists love it. Many styles of truck art have evolved over decades. Some of the most famous styles are: Shinvari, Quetta, Pindi, Tajona, Parma and Gul Kar. Amm, Marhaba and Majma styles are the most difficult ones,” says Seyar Khan

SK: Work done with love, care, enthusiasm and zeal attracts all humans. Passers-by stop to look at beautifully painted trucks. Truck art is much appreciated in developed countries like America. Foreign tourists love it. There are many styles of truck art. Some of the most famous styles are: Shinvari, Quetta, Pindi, Tajona, Parma and Gul Kar. Amm, Marhaba and Majma styles are very difficult to execute and hence uncommon.

TNS: How is your business doing now?

SK: Everyone wants comfort and satisfaction in life. I am satisfied with my work. My income has also improved after I started painting surfaces other than rucks. Recently, I painted a restaurant. The owner wanted to have it covered with truck art. They paid me well. I also painted a rickshaw for them.

TNS: Do you have an apprentice?

SK: So far, I have trained seven people. Two of them have managed to open their own businesses. It is not easy being a mentor. Most students go away within a few months. They don’t have the patience needed to learn this art. Some quit on realizing they will not make much money in this profession.

TNS: What future do you see for yourself and your profession?

SK: I have a great desire to keep the art alive. Whatever happens, I will continue doing this. I am committed to my work and will not compromise it. I want to teach this skill to more people so that this art does not vanish. All we need is sponsorships; we can decorate buses, personal vehicles and public places.

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Peshwar. He can be reached at wasimsajjad2012 @gmail.com

Portrait of a truck artist