Though several Asian countries practice the art of vehicle decoration, Pakistan takes the custom to a higher level. Across the country just about every kind of transportation, from trucks to fruit carts, has vibrantly decorated examples among its ranks.
Amherst religion professor Jamal J. Elias has spent years researching this form of expression, and has found that the embellishment is not just aesthetic, but also represents the “religious, sentimental and emotional worldviews of the individuals employed in the truck industry.”
This kind of adornment doesn’t come cheap. It costs about $5,000 to decorate a truck completely, most of that money going to structural modifications such as additional levels and extended roofs. (Note that the country’s per capita income is only about $2,000.) Most transport companies will even foot the bill despite the lack of a discernible business advantage, illustrating the importance of the tradition to drivers.
“Since trucks represent the major means of transporting cargo throughout Pakistan," Elias concludes, "truck decoration might very well be this society’s major form of representational art.”