Saturday, April 23, 2011

Mobile Canvases: Pakistani Jingle Trucks

Hi my fellow nocturnal creatures! I am having a hard time sleeping tonight (maybe it was that 3 hour nap this afternoon?) so I want to exude this energy into a blog post in hopes that it will wear me down enough to go back to bed.

As some of you are aware, finals are due in the next week and a half, and one of my professors has requested that we turn our papers in early. Yeah, okay. Well, I'm actually doing it. It's the only class that we get to create a lesson plan for, so I might as well take advantage of it while I can. Our assignment is to create a multicultural art education lesson plan.

I have put a lot of effort into researching the history of Pakistani jingle trucks for my lesson, which is aimed for 2nd grade and up. I can't wait to post it on here as a teacher resource when I am finished with it, but for now, I will share the history with you, along with some colorful photos.


For those of you who don't know (and I'll be completely honest when I say I didn't know much about Pakistan before yesterday), Pakistan is located in south Asia, just above India, east of Iran, and under Afghanistan. A huge percentage of Pakistanis are Muslim, though 3% or so practice Christianity and Hinduism, as well as a few other religions.

In the 1920s, there was a lot of competition between Pakistani bus companies to cart patrons back and forth. In order to get an edge over their competitors, one company hired craftsmen to paint their buses in colorful patterns in order to catch the eye of potential customers.

Soon, almost all of the buses were covered in these ornate decorations, and images from folklore, religious stories, even famous landscapes became incorporated into the designs of the buses. Obviously, these buses became beacons of pride for their owners, and still today there is this competition between owners of decorative cars. It's not uncommon for someone to spend an entire year's worth of salary on having their truck decorated.

Ironically, the interior of the trucks are more intricate than the exterior. The driver's area is often the most heavily decorated.

In modern times, "jingle trucks" (a slang term for the vehicles) feature all sorts of images; popular culture references, Pakistani sports stars and celebrities, paintings of loved ones, anything you can dream up, really. They call them "jingle trucks" because of the noise the chains hanging around the bumpers make when the car is being driven.

Artists will sign the back of the truck with their name and phone number when they are finished, in an attempt to gain more customers.

Obviously, the trend grew around Pakistan, and now you can find these art cars in Afghanistan and India, and Albert (my hubby) tells me that he even rode in one while he was living in the Philippines! These adornments aren't limited to buses anymore, now you can find cars and motorized rickshaws with beautiful paintings gracing their surfaces.

Each province in Pakistan has a different style of truck art. The best part about these trucks is that each one is unique and has personal meaning to its owner. Over the past [almost] century, these trucks have become a staple of Pakistani culture and tradition. Can you imagine if I did that to my Smart Car?

Okay. Now the pictures:

Details of the cars:
the back of the cars:
a craftsman at work (above and below)
the interior of the cars:
Other Pakistani vehicles painted similarly:

I like to imagine what mine would have painted on it! I think I would choose Day of the Dead sugar skulls patterns and Mexican oilcloth patterns with a portrait of Eva (my cat) on one side, Albert painted on the other, and little paintings of my lawn gnomes and cactuses all over the front. I would want Agatha Christie, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, and Maria Montessori painted somewhere on the car, too. I think I might even add in little vignettes of artwork by my favorite artists. I would want a big, red cardinal in a wooden statue on the top!

A few years ago, Coke hired an agency called Soho Square to create ad campaign in Pakistan that featured these behemoths:

I gathered most of my information from Wikipedia, Web Urbanist, Saudi Aramco World and a terrific article from NPR.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous26.4.11

    I made a comment about these jingle buses yesterday- but on the wrong one!
    Anyway, wanted you to know that I am doing a Jingle Bus project with my second graders.
    I will take pictures of these when I am done.
    Thanks for the idea- love this bit of culture for my kids!