In Recife, we visited CEASA (the local wholesale market) and also registered many vehicles driving around the city streets.
The visual research that led to this project came about long before it had received funding from Funcultura, a little over 5 years ago, when I started working alongside the photographer Damian Santana, taking random photos of trucks as they drove around the city of Recife and other neighboring towns. Struck by the beauty and color of the manual graphics, which decorated these trucks, the desire gradually emerged to organize these registers in the form of an inventory so that elements of this visual culture, so typical of our region, did not become lost.
Struck by the beauty and color of the manual graphics, which decorated these trucks, the desire gradually emerged to organize these registers in the form of an inventory so that elements of the visual culture, so typical of our region, did not become lost.
While investigating cultures from other places, I discovered that the tradition of decorating vehicles was not unique to our country, and could also be encountered throughout other Latin American countries, India, Pakistan and even in Japan. Filete Porteño, for example, is a particular technique used in Argentina to decorate carts and trucks, and today is recognised as one of the country’s cultural icons. So, why not catalogue this decorative tradition in Brazil as well?
To begin this project we decided to undertake an initial survey of trucks in the state of Pernambuco, so that later we could maybe establish correlations between graphics from other Brazilian states or countries. But how to define a research universe composed of objects that are constantly on the move? A quick visit to CEASA (a wholesale market) indicates how we are able to observe the visual ‘promiscuity’ of trucks arriving from every part of the country. Therefore, it was decided to maintain the focus of this research on trucks that are registered at the regional DfT [Department for Transport] in the state of Pernambuco, since it may be assumed that the bodywork of these trucks was produced either in this or in neighboring states, and that they would be encountered driving around this particular region.
The first systematized visits in order to expand our image database were undertaken at CEASA. Amongst our early impressions was the fact that most of the trucks in Pernambuco were decorated with the aid of stenciling techniques – cut-out stencils, which may be reused to produce the same designs. Some trucks also displayed motifs that were produced with a brush or some similar instrument, but generally, these were secondary decorative elements or typographical inscriptions. Therefore, it was decided to confine our focus to stenciled trucks, since they are more representative of this particular region.
At CEASA we were also able to observe the colour preferences used by the painters. Trucks are generally painted in 3 colours, black and white plus a primary or secondary colour – red, yellow, blue, green and even beige or gray.
We also identified the various parts of the truck that are usually decorated, which include the sides of the body structure, rope cleats, mud flaps, the bumper, the toolbox, etc.. The motifs along the sides of the truck usually contain symmetrical drawings, placed both horizontally and vertically.
Generally, every truck body is labeled – also by stenciling – with the logo of the company that produced or refurbished it, and each of these establishments has its own particular patterns for decorating trucks. Copying and adapting motifs, however, is common practice within this field of work.