ISLAMABAD: Paintbrushes and colors are among the most noticeable things a visitor encounters as soon as the wooden door of advocate Sofia Akhtar’s studio is opened at her residence in Islamabad. The small room is situated in a corner of her palatial dwelling and is strewn with artwork illuminated by a few lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling.
Akhtar works as a tax lawyer five days a week and paints truck art on different objects, including jewelry, cricket bats, lanterns, nameplates, joggers and kitchen utensils, over the weekend to deliver orders to her customers and prepare for art exhibitions.
“I do sell my art, but this hobby is for only Saturdays and Sundays,” she said while sitting on the floor of her workshop. “The remaining five days I focus on my profession. I get myself relaxed with this [painting business].”
Akhtar urged women to learn and take up art, saying it could “emancipate and empower” them by being a good source of income.
“This is the art that the women can do by sitting at home, can take forward their ideas and they must join it,” she said. “Women are sophisticated and they will bring new ideas and sophistication to it.”
“It is easy to access [customers] internationally due to digital marketing,” she continued while mentioning an offer made by a customer to help set up her business in Canada.
The history of truck art in Pakistan goes back to the 1920s when artists started painting Bedford trucks imported from Great Britain. Truck art is folk art, representing the dreams, inspirations, ideas, hobbies and imagination of Pakistani painters. The genre is also widely admired by art lovers across the world.
Asked about any obstacles she faced, Akhtar said she had always accepted challenges with open arms. This, she maintained, also included her legal profession and passion for painting, adding that she enjoyed them both.
“Our art is on everything, and the young generation [likes it on] laptops, face masks, mobile phone covers and others,” she said. “They were excited [about] the truck art jewelry that we made recently.”
Akhtar also started painting cricket bats and balls recently for young people who, she hoped, were going to buy them in large numbers at exhibitions in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
She said the youth could introduce new trends and ideas to contribute to truck art and take it to the next level to represent Pakistan at national and international platforms.
“We are traditionally doing it on lanterns and trucks, but this art is not limited to it,” she added. “We have introduced it in jewelry and this is the idea of young generation.”
“When young generation will adopt it, this will be explored further,” she said.
Akhtar has been a tax lawyer and painter for over 20 years now, though she decided to take up truck art in early 2020 when Pakistan was hit by COVID-19 to keep herself busy amid periodic lockdowns.
She has been lately exhibiting art at different embassies in Islamabad and selling the pieces to diplomats.
“They [the foreign diplomats] get excited,” she said. “The truck art is to play with the blooming colors and they get excited [about] it and appreciate us.”