21 February 2010

Jingle trucks...

I saw these on the news this morning and thought they were so beautiful! These are very old trucks which are "pimped" by their owners. The article below tells the story better than I could.

Name: CAPT Doug Traversa
Posting date: 11/27/06
Stationed in: Kabul, Afghanistan
Hometown: Tullahoma, TN
Milblog url: http://traversa.typepad.com
Email: traversa@gimail.af.mail

One of the first things that struck me about Afghanistan, besides the stunning levels of poverty I saw everywhere, were the gloriously colorful trucks I saw everywhere. The style of the art reminded me of India, and they had many chains with pendants hanging from the bumpers. I would soon learn that these were called "jingle trucks". I did not immediately learn why, but I spent many days trying to get good photos of them. We are never allowed out of our vehicles unless we are on a base, and jingle trucks never seem to come on base, photos must be taken from inside our moving vehicle. Despite these difficulties, I managed to get some clear pictures.

The most striking thing about the artwork is that it depicts beautiful landscapes, usually with woods, grass, lakes, rivers, and many exotic animals. There are often beautiful cottages or new, modern buildings. All of this is done in bright colors; no pastels here. The poignancy is that the artwork depicts everything these people will probably never experience. The area of Afghanistan I've seen is uniformly brown and trees are rare, and grass almost non-existent. The only animals I ever see are endless flocks of sheep and mangy dogs. Jingle trucks are the only bright color in an otherwise drab landscape, expressing the hopes of all for a land of beauty they can only dream of.

I finally had a chance to learn the secret of why they are called "jingle trucks" when one came onto the Afghan Army base where I work. It was parked, but there was a good breeze blowing, and I heard wind chimes. It was the chains and pendants hanging from the front bumper. This had to be the answer; surely the jingle referred to the music from the pendants! But I had to nail it down, so I took my interpreter Hamid with me to find the driver, and asked him why they hung all the pendants from the bumper. Was it for the music, or for decoration? He shrugged and said, "Who knows? Both, probably." So much for an authoritative answer. Of course, it's not really important. I just appreciate seeing them. I never tire of looking at them as we head to work or back home. They are my favorite works of art, living testaments to the hopes of a people beaten down for over 25 years. And to think, they pay me to be here!

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