Street Art on the Move: the Colourful Truck Art of Peru

We were rather disappointed that we didn’t find ‘real’ street art in Peru – not even in the capital Lima. We always love to add to our extensive street art galleries . But then we noticed the colourful trucks everywhere, with their elaborate paintings on the back and bold coloured patterns on the side.
This truck art is unique to Peru – we haven’t seen anything like it elsewhere in South America!

So we thought, although rather late into our trip: these trucks are driving on the streets and have naïve art on their back. So why not call this the Peruvian version of street art and document these trucks with a photo gallery?

We were quite impressed by the art painted on trucks in Peru. This is a rather unusual piece of truck art: a lonely bear standing on a frozen ice landscape.

We were quite impressed by the art painted on trucks in Peru. This is a rather unusual piece of truck art: a lonely bear standing on a frozen ice landscape.

So we started to take more notice of the Peruvian truck art and tried to take as many photos as possible – most whilst on the move ourselves. Soon we realised that there are two or three distinctively different directions these paintings take. On one hand you find countless religious themes, like Jesus with the bleeding heart, Virgin Mary holding her baby, Jesus with lambs in a green field, Jesus with a crown of thorns, and so on.

Big brother and little brother – both with almost identical scenes of Jesus with lambs painted onto their back doors.

Big brother and little brother – both with almost identical scenes of Jesus with lambs painted onto their back doors.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.

This is the last photo we shot of a truck in Peru (before leaving for Ecuador), and it is an unusually surreal painting. The head of Jesus entwined in a twisted tree. At the base of the tree you can see two jaguars.

This is the last photo we shot of a truck in Peru (before leaving for Ecuador), and it is an unusually surreal painting. The head of Jesus entwined in a twisted tree. At the base of the tree you can see two jaguars.

Then you find variations of animal scenes, usually set in a mountainous green landscape. As a backdrop you often see a wide waterfall. Lions, jaguars, and tigers seem to be the preferred motifs, followed by cows and horses. Never any llamas or alpacas! This still confuses us, as lions and tigers cannot be found in South America, other than in a few zoos. Yet the llama and alpaca are the most commonly domesticated animal. These camelids even contribute a lot to the wealth of common people.

We still don't understand why lions are so popular as a motif for truck art in Peru.

We still don’t understand why lions are so popular as a motif for truck art in Peru.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.

Occasionally we noticed trucks, which had a road winding through a typical Peruvian landscape painted onto their back doors. Really clever ones then depicted the actual truck, with its current decorative motifs repeated in this art, driving along that country road. Sadly we never got a good photo of one of these.

This is the only photo we got of a truck painted on its own truck body. We had passed better ones, but never found the chance to photograph one.

This is the only photo we got of a truck painted on its own truck body. We had passed better ones, but never found the chance to photograph one.

What we missed (and would have thought quite appropriate) were scenes of local farmers working their fields, traditional festival scenes with all the colourful costumes, pictures of adobe villages, old Incan temples or gold funeral masks – typical Peruvian scenes. Don’t ask us why Rambo and warplanes are more popular as a decoration.

We saw this truck, with a beautifully detailed indigenous deity painted onto the back, parked below the Kualep ruins – how fitting!

We saw this truck, with a beautifully detailed indigenous deity painted onto the back, parked below the Kualep ruins – how fitting!

Truck art and trash in Chiclayo – the dirtiest city we found in Peru. You see stylised animal motifs, like these two birds, more often in the south – probably inspired by the local Nasca lines.

Truck art and trash in Chiclayo – the dirtiest city we found in Peru. You see stylised animal motifs, like these two birds, more often in the south – probably inspired by the local Nasca lines.

 

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.

Overall, these colourful trucks certainly brought us some extra enjoyment when driving long roads. We were always fascinated to discover a completely new motif painted onto one of them. Sadly, not many owners seem to go beyond the initial outlay of having their truck decorated. We have noticed countless older trucks, where the paint had faded or been scratched beyond recognition of the original art.

We hope you enjoy these photos of Peruvian truck art – and don’t curse us for publishing them as ‘street art’!

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We didn't find much 'real' street art in Peru, but on the other hand we noticed the unique art they paint onto their truck bodies. After a while, we decided to document these moving pieces of art and publish a gallery – a little tongue in cheek, we classified it as 'street art'. Have a look and be surprised by the many different motifs Peruvians decorate their trucks with!

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Juergen

webmaster, main photographer & driver, second cook and only husband at dare2go.com. Freelance web designer with nearly 20 years of experience at webbeetle.com.au

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2 Responses

  1. Gilda Baxter says:

    Interesting idea, not exactly art masterpieces, but entertaining nevertheless. Has it inspired you guys to give Berta a bit of a makeover? What kind of o painting would you be showcasing on Berta?

    • Juergen says:

      Actually, a few of these pieces are quite well executed. As to our ‘Berta’: when we covered up the rear door we used one sheet of textured aluminium – it’s near impossible to paint on that. I initially had the idea to write in bold decorative letters onto the side of the camper box “Live Love Laugh”. I gave it up due to time restrains. Maybe one day…

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