Truck Art and Social Reforms

Truck art’s activist side of the story is equally colourful, though a little less know, so let us share one such story with you today.

In 2017, Pakistani rights activist and documentary film maker Samar Minallah, in collaboration with UNESCO, mobilised the power of truck art as a medium to advocate for girls’ right to education in Kohistan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

In collaboration with the local community, the team painted over 20 trucks forwarding goods and timber along the Karakorum and Indus highways with colourful portraits and murals advocating for girls education. It also included inspirational quotes like 'Ilm taaqat hai' (Education is power) and 'Ilm roshni hai' (Education is light) to communicate the need and power of education.
This was the first time that images of school-going girls with advocacy messages were used, which were empowering yet culturally sensitive and widely accepted by the local communities.

Encouraged by the response of locals, Minallah and the team went on to also paint bridges in this indigenous art form with messages promoting education for girls. Dubair (Kohistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) was the first bridge in the series, followed by another in Besham. Local communities were involved so that they can take ownership of the artwork, and work together for the cause.

On the flip side, they also painted local district schools in truck art, so children can stay connected and appreciate their local art form. The walls were brightly painted with Urdu alphabets and indigenous symbols, such as Baab-e-Khyber, Sandooq, Ghulail, etc.

The two-way approach has since helped preserve craft as well as engage local school children; it helped pass on the art form to the future generations while amplifying important messages on educating girls for the wider community.

More recently, in 2019, the Ministry of Human Rights and the government of Pakistan, through the EU funded Huqooq-e-Pakistan Programme, in collaboration with the Samar Minallah Khan, launched the Girl Child Awareness program, on the wheels of truck art as well. The moving billboards are once again mobilised, to go from one end of the country to another, educating and inspiring masses en route.

In a country like Pakistan, where some 12.5 million girls in Pakistan do not have access to education, such campaigns can be real game changers, especially when local communities and masters of indigenous art support the campaign.

“Art is not supposed to change the world, to change practical things, but to change perceptions. Art can change the way we see the world. Art can create an analogy” and with truck art on wheels to disseminate positive social messages, advocating right to education, and reminding what society owes every child, the change will follow soon.

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