Decked-up wheeled beauties on UAE roads

DUBAI — It may be a multi-coloured floral pattern, fierce-looking animal or a piercing gaze, the indigenous Pakistani decorative painting and graffiti on trucks has transcended its boundaries and arrived in the UAE. Such a practice, however, is not allowed in the country.


Asma Ali Zain

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Published: Sat 9 Aug 2008, 1:15 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 5:01 PM

Decoration of trucks with paintings, designs and slogans is made popular by street artists who sometimes also ensure that the driver's words of wisdom or a poetic verse get a prominent display.

These migrating artists, the majority of whom hail from the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, have brought their 'art form' to the UAE. One such artist who offers this service in Ras Al Khor, M. Iqbal, says, 'I have been painting and creating designs on trucks and tankers for over 20 years. It is a unique artform that I learnt from my elder brother.'

His love for the art form began in his childhood. 'In 1971, I was part of a group that was taught by a famous painter named Ustad Durrani and his assistant Ajit who, I think, were among the first people to teach this art,' adds the 45-year-old.

However, the background of this art form remains sketchy though some claim that it has its roots in the days of the 'raj' when craftsmen made glorious horse-drawn carriages for the gentry.

Israr, another artist based in Sharjah, says working on a complete truck may take up to seven days. 'It depends on what a client wants. The most popular requests are a pair of eyes, poetic lines, a lion, tiger, an eagle or a scenery,' says Israr. He says he has never learnt from anyone how to draw.

One can earn between Dh 2,000 and Dh 4,000 per month by decorating up to 15 trucks a month. 'People of various nationalities, including Arabs, like this art but the Pakistanis love it,' he adds.

Besides the colourful paintings, truckers also love to adorn their vehicles with jingling chains and multi-coloured trimmings. 'We make the cut-outs and paint them according to what the client wants,' says Iqbal, adding that recently a client added trimmings such as curtains and chains worth Dh 3,500 to his vehicle.

He, however, says that this artform may not survive in the UAE for long. 'We are still painting several trucks, but the authorities do not approve of it,' he explains.

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