Truck and bus art are forms of poetic expression in Pakistan. Satirical poetry has become a way for the common man to articulate his inner reflections and rickshaw art is no different in this regard. Do not let the tiny exterior of the vehicle fool you into thinking that the driver’s inner bard is confined. Here are some of the witty quotes that rickshaw drivers paint on the back of the small motor vehicle:
‘Maalik ki gaadi, driver ka paseena, Chalti hai road par ban kar haseena’
‘Qismat aazma chuka, muqadar aazma raha hoon, Aik bewafa ki khatir rickshaw chala raha hoon’
While some may dismiss these verses as humourous anecdotes of the past, the evolution of these sayings often reflects the socio-economic and political climate of the country.
While rickshaw drivers festoon their vehicles with decorative verses, a young graduate from the Pakistan Institute of Fashion Design (PIFD) uses her clothes to embody some of these sayings. In designer Zoya Butt’s very first collection of kurtas, she uses unconventional designs such as cherries, embroidered cupcakes, moustaches, owls and rickshaws to name a few. Some of her outfits also bear embroidered verses such as, ‘much nahin tou kuch nahin’, the evergreen ‘dekh magar pyaar say’ and ‘touch but not too much’.
“I want to be a part of a revolutionary new fashion culture in Pakistan,” Butt tells The Express Tribune. “This exhibition serves as another piece going into that picture,” she says. “Each and every design that I have created for this exhibition is a tribute to a memory or an event that has inspired me to make these pieces.”
Butt explains that her rickshaw-inspired pieces come from an overtly frustrating rickshaw ride to Lahore’s Shahalmi Bazaar when she was on an excursion to find some fashion goodies. It seems that the designer selects the sayings to express her own feelings — and also the sentiments of her generation — as embroidery on her clothes. The verse ‘much nahin tay kuch nahin’ challenges the masculinity of the men around us.
While one can extract various meanings from the verses embroidered on Butt’s clothes, her collection is unique and the embroidery gives the clothes a different appeal. Butt found her passion for fashion very early, as she used the corridors of Lahore Grammar School as her runway. “Whether I start the journey from my obsession with Alexander McQueen’s catwalks to my internship days at the Kamiar Rokni den, the story has remained the same,” says Butt.
“The effort to dress up for classes even at an all girls school — where more time was spent socialising outside than in classes — and the tailoring and slaving days at PIFD, where more time was spent in classes than even in my own room, the pieces of my life have finally started to fit together into a picture that I almost recognise,” she says.
Butt’s collection is priced between Rs3,000 to Rs5,000 a piece.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2012.