Haider Ali (artist)

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Haider Ali
Pakistani truck artist Haider Ali paints in Washington DC.png
Haider Ali painting in Washington DC, 2017
Karachi, Pakistan
ResidenceKarachi, Pakistan
Notable work
Smithsonian Folklife Festival truck, Luton truck, Karachi Press Club mural

Haider Ali is a Pakistani painter best known for his work as a truck artist. Around the world, he has painted murals, structures, benches, and trucks in the distinctive truck art style of Pakistan. He first gained international attention in 2002 when he worked on the first authentic Pakistani truck in North America for the Smithsonian and has since exhibited at museums and institutions globally.

Early life and education[edit]

Ali was born in Karachi, Pakistan to a family originally from Jalandhar in Punjab, which moved to Lahore and Karachi before partition.[1] Ali received rigorous training in truck art as a child apprentice.[2] He was trained from the age of eight by his truck artist father, Muhammad Sardar, who insisted on an ability to draw straight vertical and horizontal lines.[3] By age 16, he had painted his first truck under master supervision.[2]

Ali founded for Phool Patti, an organization that promotes truck artists from Pakistan across the world. Phool Patti means "flowers and leaves" and is a term Pakistani artists working in the truck use to describe the art themselves.[4][5] One of his aims is to train young artists to continue his legacy.[6]

He taught at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture as a visiting faculty member.[3]

Method and style[edit]

On most projects, Ali blends his own set of visual vocabulary with imagery and motifs suggested by the client. In his Karachi workshop, he paints in the open air and sketches his ideas on the ground.[7] If necessary, he has painted scenes that he has never personally seen, a task he enjoys.[3] Ali will paint portraits of famous Pakistani political and cultural figures, which often appear on the rear of trucks.[3] Upon request, he paints truck owner's children, a task he finds more challenging as the clients closely scrutinize the work.[3] Ali appreciates the sentimental quality of truck art and believes that love is at the core of the art.[3] According to Ali, truck art is to Pakistan what Bollywood is to India.[8]

Notable works[edit]

As part of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 2002, Ali painted a Bedford truck in Washington, DC. Jamal Uddin, another Pakistani artist, completed the body and metal work while Haider handled the painting.[2] It is the only complete and authentic recreation of a Pakistani truck in North America and is noteworthy for conveying the totality of truck art, not reducing it to painting, metalwork, or other elements that are prized by elite art audiences.[2][9]

In 2011, Ali also painted a truck in Luton, United Kingdom for a special Truck Art exhibition at the Stockwood Discovery Centre.[10] Now part of the Center's transport collection, the truck is only one of its kind in the U.K., and possibly Europe.[11][12] Initiated as part of the festivities for London 2012, the project celebrated ties between Luton and Pakistan, as Bedford trucks manufactured in Luton in the 1950s are still used in Pakistan.[13][14] Ali collaborated with 20 artists including Rory Coxhill, a British Gypsy artisan and folk wagon artist who apprenticed for eight weeks in Pakistan as part of the project.[13][10][15]

In 2013, Ali visited Kolkata, India and decorated a truck as part of the city's Durga Puja annual celebrations in honor of the goddess Durga.[16] With the help of two assistants, Ali painted a pandal, or one of the colorful religious structures used for the event. The pandal structure was designed to give visitors the feeling of standing in the cargo hold of a truck while the head of the truck, or taj, was used to hold the representations of the goddess.[3] The installation was accompanied by a truck art exhibition introducing visitors to the art.[1] Ali understood his participation as supporting India - Pakistan coexistence and friendship.[16][17][1][3]

In 2014, as part of a fellowship at the USC Pacific Asia Museum, Ali painted a van as a gift to the university for their patronage.[4][2][18] Ali included California references including the bear from the state of California flag bear, the Hollywood sign, a bald eagle, and ocean sunsets.[18][2] His work was shown as part of the museum's exhibit, "From the Grand Trunk Road to Route 66," which linked the culture of travel in the US and Pakistan and the explosion of vehicular-related art in the 1950s.[4]

Ali and his team painted a mural on the wall of the Karachi Press Club which features notable Pakistani women including Yasmeen Lari, Pakistan's first female architect and prominent activist Sabeen Mahmud.[19] The work was commissioned as part of the I am Karachi campaign. It was the subject of local protests while it was being painted[20] and later became a target of vandalism and graffiti. Ali restored the mural in 2017.[19]


  1. ^ a b c Gupta, Sabai (3 September 2013). "Pak artists all agog about Durga Puja". Times of Inida. Kolkata. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Hart, Hugh (14 November 2014). "A Jingle Truck Artist Brings The Mobile Art Of Pakistan To America". Fast Company. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Sharma, Anuradha (13 October 2013). "Truck-art veneration: Maa Durga on phool patti". Express Tribune. KOLKATA. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Ohanesian, Liz (29 October 2014). "Haider Ali: The King of Pakistani Truck Painting". kcet.org. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  5. ^ Aijaz, Rahul (24 March 2015). "Pakistani truck art to change nation's image". The Asian. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  6. ^ "USC Pacific Asia Museum Event Announcement" (PDF). pacificasiamuseum.usc.edu/. USC Pacific Asia Museum. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  7. ^ "Pakistan's truck art masters fret over Nato withdrawal". AFP. 31 December 2013. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  8. ^ Napoli, Lisa (24 October 2014). "Psychedelic: Pakistani truck artist brightens the LA roads". KCRW.com. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  9. ^ Elias, Jamal (2011). On Wings of Diesel. Oxford, England: One World.
  10. ^ a b Strange, Andy (4 April 2011). "Opening of the Truck Art exhibition at Stockwood". andystrange.org.uk. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  11. ^ Rasul, Nidia (17 April 2012). "Trucks as Art: Pakistan's Colorful Tradition, With a Midwestern Twist". The Atlantic. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  12. ^ "Truck Ar". utonculture.com. 2017 Luton Culture. Registered Charity No. 1122964. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  13. ^ a b "Truck Ar" (PDF). sjam.org. Social Justice Alliance for Museums. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  14. ^ Peel, Shaun (28 March 2011). "Vintage truck given new look for 2012 celebrations". Luton, UK. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  15. ^ Khattak, Majid (31 March 2011). "Truck art exhibition opens in Luton". www.pakistantoday.com.pk. Pakista. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  16. ^ a b Indrajit, Kunju (27 September 2013). "Art for peace: Pakistani painters lend colour to Durga Puja this year!". India Today. Kolkata. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  17. ^ BHABANI, SOUDHRITI (29 September 2013). "Kolkata's pandals paint a riot of colour as artists from France and Pakistan prepare for Durga puja". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  18. ^ a b Ward, Kat (13 October 2014). "Lowriders & Pakistani Jingle Trucks". Hometown Pasadena. Pasadena, CA. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  19. ^ a b "Karachi Press Club's defaced murals of female activists restored". SAMAA. Karachi. 7 January 2017. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  20. ^ Hasan, Shazia (28 October 2016). "Portraits of eminent city women appear on KPC walls". Dawn. Karachi. Retrieved 24 August 2017.