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It is early afternoon. The sun is burning mercilessly down and hitting hard the streets of Penang. Humans manage to maintain a purposeful walk while holding a smartphone in one hand and a map on the other. The temperatures of 35° remain the question: “Why are all these people creeping through the ardent streets of George Town”?
Bob Marley, Penang, George Town
George Town Street Art was definitely one of the most culturally rewarding experiences during all my travels! Especially for someone like me – “A Street Art Lover” – Penang is the outstanding capital of all capitals when it comes to street-art and cultural creativity! In addition to any stunning architectural heritage in the UNESCO historic city, the streets of Penang became the “living museum” of Southeast Asia and its diversity during the last couple of years. And not to forget – the street-art has become one of the most prominent reasons for visiting Penang while in Malaysia.
Since the year 2008, the streets of Penang have evolved into a world-class open-air art gallery which attracts traveller and art lovers from all over the World! The old architecture of George Town still remains the colonial history of the city… but many existing old buildings have been renovated and converted into a lovely “trap” for visitors (e.g. “23 Love Lane”), which on the other hand made Penang the most visited city in Malaysia!
One year later, the so called project “Marking of George Town” put another landmark on the streets of Penang – the 52 steel rod caricatures called “Voices from the People”. The iron structures are located all around the historic centre of Old Town. They provide a good opportunity for the visitors to learn a little bit more about Penang’s history and heritage.
In the year 2012, the city of Penang decided to add some illustrations to the very well visited street-museum. The main idea was to recreate the multiculturalism and diversity of George Town thorough numerous wall paintings spread around the city. The most prominent art-work in George Town is made by the Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic who was commissioned for the “Mirrors George Town” project. Zacharevic is most of all famous for his paintings the “Boy on the Chair” and the “Kungfu Girl”.
Another Art-Challenge was the project 101 Lost Kittens by the Thai artist Natthapon Muangkliang and Malaysian artists Louise Low and Tang Yeok Khang. The main idea of the project was to create a greater awareness among locals and tourist toward stray animals. As a result, they created 12 cats and dogs related paintings spread among some random walls in Penang.
The most popular of all Wall-Masterpieces are still the Little Children on a Bicycle”, the “Boy on a Bike” and “Bruce Lee and the Kittens” – unfortunately, as it often happens with the open-air art exhibitions, the paintings are starting to fade due to the harsh weather conditions in Malaysia, during the monsoon season. The good news is that Zacharevic came back in 2016 in order to refresh the paintings which gave a new life to the street-art in Penang.
In fact, there are so many different street artworks in George Town, that you probably will need a month in order to discover all of them! There are many ways on how to discover the large and diverse area of Penang’s Street Art. For example, there are a lot of walking guides for the streets of Penang, but also some mobile apps and GPS maps. Because of the constant destruction, reconstruction and upcoming new paintings no guide or map can list them all. So the best way to explore the street art of Penang is still the old-school “walking and stalking” method. Take your time! No matter where you go, you’ll discover something new even on the tiniest dead-end street of George Town!
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Kek Lok Si Temple ~ Penang