The gorgeous colonial city of George Town consists of more than 12,000 old buildings and structures of varying Asian and European influences. From Charming shophouses, jetties and temples, colourful Indian temples, Muslim Mosque and British colonial government offices earning its place under the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in 2008. It’s a real delight to stroll around the city and feel being transported back in the old world of Penang. In 2012, Penang municipality decided to breath life into this old walls by incorporating street art into public spaces. While I love street art, done wrong can make the place messy. But seems like George Town found just the right artist for the job.
Contemporary Lithuanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic, was commissioned by the Penang municipality to create murals depicting the simple yet lively way of life in Penang. His initial murals (which includes Boy on Motorcycle, Children on Bicycle and little boy with Pet Dinosaur) not only blends well with the old walls but are quirky and interactive. These works gave Zacharevic worldwide recognition and became cultural landmarks in Goerge Town.
Evolving Street Art
Citing the success of Zacharevic’s murals, Penang Municipality commissioned more artist including local talents to create more street art to complement Zacharevic’s workss. Caricature sculpture artist, Tang Mun Kian, created a series of diorama works using steel rods also depicting the way of life in Penang. There’s also the “101 Lost Kittens” by a group of local artist for Artist for Stray Animals (ASA) to spread awareness on helping strays find home.
Art lovers would surely enjoy this city. Exploring and finding all the street art could take days. There are numerous guides online (including google maps art guide) to make it easy. There are also tourist maps freely available. Not to mention Zacharevic’s iconic works are usually crowded with people lining up to take photos so it’s easy to find them. There are even cat-lovers who found a quest to locate all the cat or cat-related murals in the city.
But don’t be confined with the street art found within the core of this heritage city. The art murals are spread across the city and moving towards the fringes. I found Nagore Square, a hipster area with renovated shophouses were turned to cafes and chic eateries. Now also home to a number of outstanding looking murals from various artist. Even new cafes here have found these old walls as an ideal canvass for their interiors.
This is one reason why I love George Town. So much creative vibe going around that it can inspire explorers and Bohemians alike. Compliment that with the sumptuous and cheap street food found in almost all the major corners of the city. George Town is such a feast for the eyes, mind and the tummy.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.