Street art as a genre has a number of enthusiastic artists and patrons. However, Rickshaw Art, which is yet another popular art form that finds its expression on the streets, is not that well known. This unique form of art is what could be called “peoples’ art” and it combines within itself a number of elements including folklore, movie, political and commercial imagery and techniques.
For those who are not aware, Rickshaws are traditional, non-motorized, eco-friendly vehicles that ply the roads in many parts of South-East Asia, especially India, China and Bangladesh. These rickshaws are used for traveling short distances. At the beginning, rickshaws were used only by the elite class of society. However, now it has become a common mode of transportation for the middle class.
In Bangladesh, the rickshaw pullers have to face stiff competition, as there are more than 600,000 rickshaws in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh alone. This means that the rickshaw drivers need to try their best to attract their customers, which they do with the help of the artwork on their rickshaws. If you like the art on the rickshaw, there is a very good chance that you will board it.
Since this kind of art needs to be extremely eye-catching, Rickshaw artists aim to decorate the vehicles with as much drama and color as they can put. The images that are painted on the rickshaws are both simple, as well as memorable. The images reflect the interests and the desires of the man or woman in the streets. For instance, religious themes, folk themes, wealth and power are common motifs of rickshaw art.
The rickshaw art is not a fine art form and cannot really be classified into a specific genre – it is a dynamic form, which reflects not only the interests of the common person, but also the entire process of globalization. For instance, you will find images on the rickshaws that show the fascination of people with Film stars, sports cars and foreign locations.
Every inch of the rickshaw, especially the rickshaws of Bangladesh, is decorated with paintings, tassels, colorful plastic flowers sprouting from various corners, decorated handlebars and hood works. You will find signs
of the rickshaw artwork even on the footholds, seats and in the chassis. The backboard of the rickshaw is the largest blank canvas available on the rickshaw to the artist, and he expresses himself to his heart’s content on the backboard.
Compared to the colorful rickshaws of Bangladesh and India, the rickshaws of USA (also known as Pedicabs) are much mundane. They usually sport the carnival looks in their canopies and seldom carries any artwork.
Rickshaw art in Eastern India and Bangladesh is a unique manifestation of a long tradition of art and craft, which is a coalition of the old tradition of this part of India, as well as the contemporary life of the city. If you look carefully, the art will help you to get a deep insight into the present beliefs and desires of the masses. The best time to enjoy this art is during the rush hours in Dhaka, when a number of rickshaws play around.
Just enjoy the spectacular art form that will help you to gain a multi-faceted perspective into the society that the rickshaw art reflects.