Since almost every example of truck art in Pakistan showcases floral patterns, animals, poetry, actors and calligraphy; painting women empowerment messages or portraits of young girls with powerful social messages against child marriage were scarce, in not entirely non-existent. Fortunately, truck artist Hayat Khan decided to change the scene and began something that can make the nation proud of today. He paints portraits of school-going girls on trucks with strong messages against child marriages.
Hayat Khan was helped by Samar Minallah Khan, an anthropologist and a filmmaker who uses culture and innovative tools for advocacy. In order to involve men to bring changes, she recruited truck artists to paint messages for female literacy. The aim was to show men as heroes and partners too. ‘It is important to have men on board to address the issue of violence against women,’ said Samar in an interview recently.
She assigned Hayat Khan, a truck artist for 35 years, to paint portraits of school-going girls on trucks with the message, ‘Education is Power’ and ‘Education is Light’ in Urdu.
Many truck owners were not satisfied with Hayat Khan’s proposal but, finally after much convincing they agreed to let Hayat paint these portraits and write the text. Hayat Khan himself says, ‘When I showed the picture to the truck owners they approved of it. They asked me to make it for them. Earlier, we used to paint pointless pictures. People now appreciate such meaningful images. I am getting many orders’. His son Tahir Hayat, has also joined his father in the project.
One message after another led to more positivity: Other truck artists and owners also helped in development of the messages. Abdul Razzak, an oil tanker owner says, ‘This is a beautifully made painting. A daughter is a blessing not a burden. Now that I am aware of the issue I want another tanker truck painted with the same image’.
Additionally, a fleet of trucks are being painted in Punjab on different forms of violence against women and girls.