There is more to truck art than trucks and buses: Ali Salman Anchan, founder Phool Patti
There was a time when the paintings and art on the bodies of Pakistani trucks and buses were considered nothing but cheap. People would find the idea of the art gaudy and unappealing but recently we’ve witnessed a change amongst the trends. More and more people, including high end designer brands, are flocking to the idea of truck art inspired apparel, home decor items and other products in general.
In Pakistan and world wide, there is one social initiative that we can consider behind the growth of truck art. Ali Salman Anchan and his project, Phool Patti. Anchan’s Karachi-based group is promoting ‘truck-art’ and is responsible of taking the art form around the world. In conversation with Oye Yeah, lets discover how the entire project came into existence and where it is headed in the future!
OY: Let’s start with the basics, how did Phool Patti come into existence? What was the idea behind it?
Ali Salman: Most of the things in our country are westernized but this is our own thing something related to our culture and if we promote it well and take our own thing ahead it will automatically be good for our country. I believe we are not only representing Phool Patti but we are representing Pakistan on a global scale. I think truck art is simply beautiful but it was never presented the way it deserves to be. When I was young I was always attracted to colors and especially the truck art and so here we are, with an initiative that works towards it.
Truck art in Urdu is ‘phool patti’,” according to Ali Salman Anchan, founder and creative director of Phool Patti. “A truck driver bringing a new truck to the artists will say, ‘phool patti ker do.’ That’s what this indigenous art genre of Pakistan has been referred to over the years.”
OY: Tell us about your team at Phool Patti?
Ali Salman: I, Ali Salman Anchan, am the founder and then we have Mr. Haider Ali on board who is the CEO. His three generations are somehow related to art and he is an old friend. We also have Mumtaz Ahmed who is a senior artist and there this this whole team of directors, senior and junior artists. We have three core members, Me, Haider and Mumtaz and together we have worked tirelessly to bring Phool Patti on the platform it is today.
OY: How do you feel when you know you have the power to transform a basic object into a beautiful piece of art? A theme that is now revered worldwide.
Ali Salman: It is an amazing feeling! We, together can convert anything into a souvenir either it be a shoe, khusa, bag etc and it feels absolutely amazing to be able to pour our culture, display it into just about anything at all.
OY: We understand that your initiative is headed international? Where and how has Phool Patti made an impact? How has the international response been?
Ali Salman: International tours are always amazing; we went to Turkey and actually transformed buses in the city. Its always a good feeling when you represent your country internationally and make an impact worth noticing. I always wanted to do something to represent my country on international level. I desperately want to tell people what Pakistan actually is and how colorful and peaceful we are. We are the people who color our transport vehicles. Colors represent peace and harmony and this has been the message that we have taken all around the world.
The international response has always been overwhelming. I remember 2 years back when we were working on a wall in Germany people stopped by the wall we were working on and in a very small period of time we were surrounded by a crowd. The Germans were intrigued and we talked as much as we could about our country and what it represented, impressing people all over.
OY: Do you have local artists on board, who have been working on trucks, painting, designing, and creating the real truck art in Pakistan? How do you intend to make life better for truck artists in Pakistan?
Ali Salman: All our artists are local and mostly only three of us travel abroad but it always depends on the project. We are social entrepreneurs, none of the artist is working on salary basis, every artist we have is an owner of Phool Patti. It doesn’t matter if we do one project in a month or ten in a month, the money we get is always equally distributed among the artists and nothing is hidden from anyone. We have a complete transparent system and we have seen a big change in our artist’s lives as their standard of living has improved, their children are studying in better schools and an overall good quality of life is gradually being introduced in their homes.
OY: How has the response been to this initiative? Do you find people flocking to the idea of learning truck art every single day? Do you have plans to make an art school? Something you want to transfer to the future generation?
Ali Salman: We regularly conduct workshops and courses in different institutions. We recently went over to Indus Valley, T2F and Pi and Co (Pi Socials) with workshops. Also, yes the school plan is included in our agenda and we are working forward to developing an art school in rge coming future. This is not a normal art; it requires a lot of hard work and practice and that is what we’re focusing on imparting.
OY: What do you think is the motivating factor behind the inspiration to learn truck art?
Ali Salman: Art is art, it doesn’t matter if it is truck art or anything else. I recall the time when it was only on buses and trucks, people related it to being cheap and showy, just for the vehicles, but not the mindset is changing. We believe now, because of our projects, this art is respected all around the world and today many senior artist call themselves truck artists proudly. This is an achievement for us because they are obviously inspired by us. Today many senior professors are working on projects related to truck art and we consider ourselves an inspiration for them. People grab opportunities but we create opportunities for those who want to learn.
OY: Tell us about your awards and achievements?
Ali Salman: We’ve been featured in creative entrepreneur diary by UNESCO. The startup has also won various awards, including:
- The Peace Entrepreneur Award
- The Innovation Award
OY: Where is the platform headed in the future?
Ali Salman: We focus on taking the platform a step ahead. There are some new ideas in formation that will take some time to materialize. We are also working on a number of joint ventures. A number of established companies and brands are asking for collaborations, and Insha Allah, very soon we’ll have a lot on board.
The Phool Patti team is currently on another tour. They would be working with Germany’s Museum of East Asian Art, doing open space art with an art gallery in Austria. The team will also be participating at a festival in Rhode Island, attending and participating in a Massachusetts University workshop and along with decorating a bus there.