Afghan Truck Stop


“Traditionally it was the custom of Afghan caravan-drivers to adorn their camels with bunches of ribbon, tassels, fringes and an array of good-luck charms. Before embarking on their hazardous dessert pilgrimage. They intended by the liberal use of these decorative symbols both to pay homage to their camels as custodians of their journey and to place them under the protection of God. For the spirits that haunted the wilderness were reputed to be evil,” so begins the short text by Jean-Charles Blanc in his 1977 book Afghan Trucks (Stonehill Publishing Company), one in a line of photo books devoted to the visual cultures of different locales.

But this is not a book of camels. “Today this tradition has survived in the form of paintings and flowers which festoon the sides of the Afghan truck.” And continues from 1977 to the present, even during wartime conditions.

“The truck,” added Blanc, has even assumed a surrealistic quality. Its decorative motifs introduce a whole new world to the eyes of the villager. A world that is half-real and half-imaginary, yet still inhabited by the flora and fauna of the daily life of the peasant.

This book is long out of print, but available in used editions here.

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