meet the maker: Inam Elahi, truck artist

meet the maker: Inam Elahi, truck artist

Polly and Other Stories collaborate with skilled artisans from all walks of life. Through their work, these artisans and makers share with us their incredible talent and stories about our culture, history, heritage and most importantly, allow us to keep traditional crafts and arts alive and relevant. To kick off our Meet the Maker series, we want to share with you the story of one of the amazing artisans who works with polly on our own namebrand line - the very talented truck artist, Inam Elahi.

Truck art is to Pakistan what Eiffel Tower is to Paris - it’s impossible to imagine one without the other. At least that is what any truck artist you speak to will tell you! And with the world finally paying attention to this incredible Pakistani craft, whether it is a nod from designer Alexander McQueen with his ankle boots from the Spring/Summer 2019 collection, which feature hand painted floral and animal imagery or Dolce and Gabbana’s truck art kitchen appliances, there is no denying the magic that it truck artistry.  

Born in Chinot, Inam Elahi‘s early childhood was spent in Taxila. As a young boy, he was always fascinated with colours, sketching and painting, so much so, that he was quite popular in his school because of his artistic tendencies. After securing a diploma in painting from Lahore, Inam returned to Taxila as an apprentice to a master truck artist. The major livelihood of people living in and around Taxila is transportation and there was so much for Inam to learn.

Truck art originated as a way to lessen the monotony and loneliness during the long distances that drivers had to travel. By painting their vehicles with symbols and graphic imagery that paid tribute to culture, family and origin as well as allowed the artists to imagine beauty and peace, the drivers were able to retain a connection with loved ones and home. It was here that Inam found his true calling and decided to turn his passion into a profession.

Since then he’s made quite a name for himself and been associated with advertising big shots like R-Lintas, Manhattan International, Spectrum Communication and Interflow among others. In his extensive career as a truck artist, he’s painted trucks, worked as an art instructor, done mural painting and also dabbled in calligraphy.

But with technology taking over, the influx of cheap fashion and the cost of living going up, there has been a decline in truck art as the modern takes over traditional creative mediums. Truckers now prefer cheaper ways of decorating their trucks like cut-out stickers and the art of hand-painted trucks is slowly fading away. The rising prices of paints and materials have not helped and for a while, it seemed the industry was in steady decline. In order to keep the skill alive, Inam and others like him, have expanded expanded truck art painting to adorn not just trucks but household items like utensils, crockery, watering cans etc. People have also commissioned Inam to paint their rooms and one foreigner visiting Pakistan even got his entire car painted with truck art motifs!

For Polly, Inam and his team do a series of hand painted beautiful bowls and other vessels used for pouring candles or as cereal and nuts bowls, designed by the in house design team. 

Some of Inam’s favourite liners that have gone on trucks are:

  • Pappu yaar, tung na kar
  • Horn du, rasta lo
  • Meray piche aween sooch ker

Apart from the important fact that for a lot of our artisans their skill is also their livelihood, artists like Inam Elahi are motivated by something more, an effort to keep the art alive. And that’s where Polly and Other Stories comes in as well - we’re in a constant endeavour to provide artists like Inam Elahi a platform to showcase their work and earn a livelihood, all the while sharing the gift of their skill with the rest of the world and keep our heritage and culture alive.

Until next time!

Amneh and Misha xxx

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