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November 26, 2008

Whence the urge to create art?

I saw some pictures of marvelously decorated Pakistani trucks the other day and I've been thinking about them ever since. First I wondered, is this art? And why do men all over the world seem to do this same kind of thing? What is it that makes them decorate their vehicles like this? I recalled seeing pictures of decorated taxis and other kinds of work vehicles in other parts of the world, and after I got my fill of Pakistani trucks, I started looking for those, too. Here are the conclusions I've come to so far.

Men everywhere have apparently always decorated their horse and donkey carts, trucks, taxis, buses, and anything else used in their work (when not working for others who do not allow this) that they see as an extension of themselves -- something they're in close proximity to and personally directing and manipulating as if it's a part of them. Such things as parade floats do not count ...The kinds of decorated vehicles or carts, etc. I'm referring to here are experienced as a part/extension of the person who makes them do what they do (move loads from one place to another, plow a field, etc.) in connection with their work.  Ideally, these decorated "extensions" of the man reflect or enhance the persona he wishes to project.

It seems to me, also, that men wouldn't have a great need to do this kind decorating if they didn't think the results were going to be seen by other people. Can you imagine them doing this if they truly never expected anyone else to see it? It's a display type of behavior. This is a very primitive urge, I'm sure.

Women have a need to decorate, too, but not carts or buses. Women have traditionally done their "decorating" in the home, and they also decorate themselves; they build "nests" and make themselves attractive with their decorating instincts -- Men, on the other hand, construct their displays (sometimes at great expense) to attract the females who build the nests, and also to impress and intimidate other males who will feel in awe, and inadequate, at the sight of such a wonderful display (and, it is hoped, will slink away). It makes men feel really good about themselves to do this.

I don't think I demean women by saying that in general they have an urge to decorate their place of abode (including their office if they work in one) -- They do this for the good of those who live in their homes (their "nests") and also for visitors, and generally it pleases women greatly to do this -- I think this is very natural and is true of most women (it's in their genes), not to say they can't sublimate this instinct, but it's what comes with the package when they're born and if their surrounding culture doesn't suppress this instinct, it usually flowers.

And so it occurs to me that this very strong creative urge (by "creative urge" I mean a very strong impulse and a great deal of energy directed toward artistic creation and/or decoration) probably has a lot to do with testosterone in the case of men, and estrogen in the case of women.

Another thing that I thought of is that the primitive, powerful urge that both sexes have to decorate (basically, though usually unconsciously, for reproductive purposes) may well be the basic urge that is behind all kinds of art, not just primitive, or folk, art. It may underlie all things that we make in order to express ourselves, to say or show something, and to say it in our own way and to make it as impressive and "artful" as we are capable of making it. Not things made according to plans made by others, not copies, not "art from a kit." I mean original, passionately made art that we have such a desire to create that we can hardly keep ourselves from doing it. It's probably our hormones that cause us to need to create artwork, that is. That is the conclusion I've come to. What do you think?

I started out by mentioning the Pakistani truck drivers. I want to include links to pictures and a couple of videos showing their trucks because of all the decked-out vehicles I've ever seen, these are the most interesting, and look the most "primitive" and for me have the most impact and are what started me thinking. I'm also going to include a short video on "chivas" (decorated buses in Colombia) below, and maybe some other links. But mostly I want to focus on the truckers in Pakistan. I have seen lots of pictures of decorated trucks in Japan (and will have one link to pictures below), but they're all very "modernistic" looking -- sleek and "stainless steel" looking with lots of lights, not like something out of the past but like something futuristic from outer space. I've seen other male-decorated vehicles, etc., too, from other parts of the world including here in the U.S., but the trucks in Pakistan are my favorites.


(In Pakistan)

"From the shores of the Arabian Sea to the peaks of the Himalayas, highways are filled with Moving Canvases. Truck Art is the unique practice of transforming cargo carriers into masterpieces. Throughout South Asia, especially in Pakistan, huge sums of money, years of experience and training, and painstaking detail have brought artwork to every city, village, and port with a road. Their inimitable style has evolved into a genre of art that is extending into a broader culture."



Mohammad Ameer Muawiya Langrial

Decorated trucks, buses, and other vehicles in Pakistan.



Creative Truck Art of Pakistan: Art on Wheels

The Wonderful Decorated Vehicles of Pakistan

This is a slide show - Click on tiny pictures below and they will show up in large size above ...You must have Java installed in order to see these pictures. There are pictures of these vehicles out on the road in Pakistan - Very interesting backgrounds as well as trucks.

The Grand Trunk Road - Decorated Trucks in India and Pakistan

This is an article that tells about how the trucks are decorated. The truckers themselves (there may well be exceptions) don't do the work. There are truck decorating workshops where this is done, which are described as "garage, art studio and service station rolled into one. The trucks start out as a cab 'and a skeleton.'.....The truckers can also get a cup of tea, a hot meal, a shower and even a bed for the night."

Below the article, there are links to two short videos showing work going on at two of these workshops.  The second video features close up views of some heavily decorated trucks.

These places make truck stops in the U.S. seem extremely dull.

Masaru Tatsuki's Decotora Photo Op
(Decorated trucks in Japan).

There are six color photos of decorated trucks in Japan on this page, so scroll down to see the rest after you've looked at the first one (if you are inclined to continue looking at these). Five of the six are pictures taken at night. The trucks have colored lights on them.  One shows the inside of a truck from the back.  It looks very cozy in there (someone's in there).


Chivatour la Quindianita

This is a promotional video (but not very "slick!"), advertising decorated bus ("chiva") tours in Colombia (in Spanish). Being on a bus in this place is not like being on a bus in, say, Los Angeles, believe me. I've seen these called "party buses," too, and that sounds about right from the looks of it.



Tap-tap public transportation in Haiti.
Source: Michelle Walz Eriksson
License: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

"Most Haitians get around Haiti by Tap Tap a colourfully painted 4x4, bus, school bus or truck. This one is just being loaded at the Bus Station in Port Salut, Dept. Sud."

See wikipedia article on taptap cabs in Haiti.

Would you like to participate in a poll on this subject (Are hormones behind our basic urge to create?)?  There's one on the right-hand side of this page, about halfway down (at the bottom of the blue strip).

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