March 28

Pilgrims of the Indus Highways: Photo Series for the Caravan Serai: Kabul in Karachi Festival 2016

This series was shown, as part of a photography exhibition, at the Caravan Serai: Kabul in Karachi festival held in Karachi in March 2016. 

“Adda is the meeting-place of idlers and pleasure seekers. In the Platts dictionary, adda is defined as the place or shed where palanquin bearers, coolies and carters assemble. It is also the name for the square frame for embroidery. The single most ubiquitous painting style inspired by trucks, is today, one of the biggest cultural exports of Pakistan. Following the well-worn trails of the trucks for a Herald magazine feature story, Zehra Nawab and Annie Ali Khan, writer and photographer, set out across the country to see firsthand how the motifs of trucks are inscribed on the bodies of trucks. The journey took them from Pindi to Peshawar, Lahore, Jhelum, Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan to Quetta and from Karachi to Hyderabad, Hala and Mirpurkhas. Along the way they picked up threads of myths and legends and folklore that supersede geographical and political boundaries. They came upon vivid illustrations of movie stars, military dictators, rebels and revolutionaries and the image of a young woman who could be Kurdish, Afghan or Palestinian copied in the same style as an illustration of Princess Diana, also a popular portrait featured on the trucks. The references and influences of the truck world are as rich and varied as the landscape: subversive and alluring in equal measure. It is a powerful narrative of the people who make their livelihood by trucks, who spend their days under the searing sun, fixing and repairing and driving the massive steel vehicles. In defying the pre-dominant cultural and political narratives, trucks that regularly carry goods across India, Afghanistan, China and Iran have come to define what it means to be of the land that we call Pakistan.”

 

01

[01]  Adorned with imagery depicting the beliefs, aesthetics and aspirations of the people whose livelihood is driven by the trucks. In each color and curve of the truck there is a talisman for the long journey ahead. Truck adda, Multan, 2016

 

 

02

[02] The freshly painted portrait of Pakistani film actress Nadra on the back of a truck, waiting at a truck adda. The Lahore based actress was one of the most popular stars of the cinema in the 80s and 90s. She was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in 1995. Truck adda, Multan, 2016

 

03

[03] General Ayub Khan, became the second president of Pakistan in 1958, following a bloodless military coup. It was during his tenure as President that the truck transport system started to take the shape of an industry in Pakistan, many of the companies were owned by senior army officers. This truck was spotted on a highway in Multan. Highway, Multan, 2016.

 

04

[04] The palla fish is a great cultural icon of the sufi and folk narratives of the sub-continent. The fish is an integral character in the legends of the

 

05

[05] Each crown is adorned in a detailed fashion, reflecting the belief, culture, religion and life of the truck laborers. Truck adda, Multan, 2016

 

06

[06] A kurdish rebel? A Palestinian freedom fighter? An Afghan hero? The answers were as varied as the people we met. Truck adda, Quetta, 2016

 

07

[07] A thing of beauty, with many a stories inscribed on the body of the truck. A pilgrim of the highways of the Indus. Highway, Lahore, 2016

 

08

[08] Yaari Baba, a revered saint from the direct lineage of Imam Hussain belonging to Baghdad, Iraq, is remembered for saving a wedding procession drowned by a collapsed boat. The bride waited on the other side of the Tigris river as she heard news of her groom’s boat capsizing on its way to the wedding. In her moment of helplessness she is said to have run to Yaari Baba, urging him to save the wedding procession  which was declared to have drowned. According to the truck driver who relates  this tale to us, it was a matter of Yaari Baba raising his palms in prayer and soon the groom and his family safely their way to shore, to the bride who was waiting for them. He is thus came to be known as the protector of travelers and can be seen on many trucks, with many truck drivers holding on to a belief in his protective powers. TheTruck adda, Lahore, 2016. Truck adda, Lahore, 2016 [Text by Zehra Nawab]

 

09

[09] Trucks decorated in chamak patti. Truck adda, Lahore, 2016

 

10

[10] Idyllic scenes depicted on the trucks were very similar to houses and trees and birds Nawab and I witnessed on our journey across the country. The freshly painted motifs as seen here are brought together in a richly detailed scene on the cabin of the truck. Truck adda, Karachi, 2016

 

11

[11] Kushab, the driver of this truck comes to stand next to it. He will be driving it to Sargodha. Among such brightly colored vehicles, his with the black bonnet stands out. He tells us that the black color has been chosen to ward off evil spirits. Seeing our sudden interest he points out the black cloths, the horse shoe and the little child’s shoe that hang off the bumper of the truck  — they are all for good luck he says. When we ask him for a photograph he chooses to go stand next to the truck he painted, as he points to the tiger sticker that he added recently to the bird illustrated by the truck painter: the positioning makes the tiger appear to be attacking the bird with a  carnivorous snarl as the bird looks on unaware and unprepared. Truck adda, Multan, 2016. [Text by Zehra Nawab]

 

12

[12] Laborers repairing the body of a truck. Truck adda, Peshawar, 2016

 

13

[13] The recently established truck adda in Quetta was expansive. But the workers complained of lacking in basic amenities such as water, electricity and gas connection. Truck adda, Quetta, 2016

 

14

[14] A young boy who was responsible for greasing the truck. Truck adda, Hyderabad, 2016

 

15

[15] Mistri Rasheed’s truck carriage has been decorated and is now being mounted on to the body of the vehicle with the help of a crane. He belongs to Kashmir, works in Punjab and owns a truck that has been registered in Balochistan. The geographical divisions are porous in the truck-world. The photograph has been taken through a truck that stands in preparation of being painted, the first coat of white is being done before the Rangsaz, the painter, can be called in. The truck carriage factory, Pindi, 2016 [Text by Zehra Nawab]

 

16

[16] A day at the carriage factory. Truck carriage factory, Pindi, 2016

 

 

Advertisements