Penang Street Art

Georgetown was jointly declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Malacca on 7 July 2008.  Since then I have seen conservation work, efforts and programmes to promote the historical and cultural heritage of this city.

It has also developed itself as a canvas for artists to showcase their talents through street art.  One such project was Mirrors George Town, commissioned for Georgetown Festival 2012.  Ernest Zacharevic, a London trained Lithuanian artist was engaged to paint several murals in several locations around the inner city.

The most famous of his murals has to be “Little Children on a Bicycle” on Lebuh Armenian (Armenian Street).  This mural depicts a little girl taking her younger brother on a bicycle ride.  It has drawn visitors and even celebrities – local and foreign to stop by and take picture with them.

Another mural painted by him is “Boy on a Bike” on Lebuh Ah Quee (Ah Quee Street).  It depicts a boy on a motorbike.  Next to this mural is “Little Boy with Pet Dinosaur”.  Unfortunately, the paint on this mural is starting to fade till one can’t really see the dinosaur anymore.

“Reaching Up” in Lebuh Cannon (Cannon Street) is another piece of work done by Zacharevic.  It shows a boy tip toeing on a chair trying to reach up to a hole on the wall.

Since this project, other murals and street paintings done by various artists are seen as well.  One such mural is “Our Art is Dying”.  I think this mural is so aptly named as it is starting to fall apart – the skull has almost disappeared!

A few steps away is a mural of Bruce Lee kicking cats…………can report him for cruelty to animals!!!  To avoid tarnishing his image & probably a lawsuit from Lee’s family, the official name for this mural is “The Real Bruce Lee Would Never Do This”.  This mural is part of the twelve cat murals painted by Artists for Stray Animals for the 101 Lost Kittens project in conjunction with the Georgetown Festival 2013.

Of course to keep up with the craze of Despicable Me, one can also find this mural of “The Bee Do Bee Do Bee Do Minion” on Lebuh Ah Quee (Ah Quee Street).

A “No Parking” sign at The Bee Do Bee Do Bee Do Minion mural helps visitors in their photography

Here is another art form that Penangites indulge in………………..

In 2009, a competition was held to have a project to mark Georgetown World Heritage Site through an art form.  Thus began the Marking George Town project, a series of caricatures made from steel rod depicting the history, community and characteristic of selected streets in Georgetown.

These cartoons are drawn by cartoonists like Tan Mun Kian, Baba Chuah, Reggie Lee and Julian “Lefty” Kam.  The whole project started in 2010 and only completed in the first half of 2013 with a total of 50 caricatures installed.

Below are 5 of the caricatures that I managed to see and capture :

“Ah Quee?” – this sculpture installed at Lebuh Ah Quee (Ah Quee Street) tells the history of the street which is named after Chung Keng Kwee, a wealthy tin miner and Chinese Kapitan in the 19th century.  He donated the road to the municipality, and in return got the name Ah Quee immortalised.

“Procession” – located on Lebuh Armenian (Armenian Street), this caricature depicts the Tua Pek Kong Hneoh Grand Float Procession held in 1926 to celebrate the birthday of Tua Pek Kong (大伯公), one of the Malaysian Chinese gods.

“Cannon Hole” – depicting how Lebuh Cannon (Cannon Street) got its name.  In the 1867 Penang Riots between two major triads, the Cantonese speaking Ghee Hin and the Hakka speaking Hai San, cannons were fired here making holes in the area.

“Shorn Hair” – this caricature can be found in Jalan Sungai Ujong (Sungai Ujong Road).  This road used to be at the tail end of Prangin canal where barbers line up along the canal to ply their trade.  All hair cut were thrown into the canal.

“Kopi-O” – my favourite one so far.  This is mounted on the wall of coffeeshop in Lebuh Kimberley (Kimberley Street), a popular place to go for Penang hawker food.  It depicts how the older generation translate an order for a cup of coffee by a young chap the Malaysian way – ie economising the words to just “kopi-o kau”.

This definitely calls for another trip to Penang .

We explored the city using ‘walkwagon’.  On this trip, I saw more tourists exploring the city on bicycles or being driven in a trishaw.

Tourists exploring Georgetown on bicycles

Tourists on trishaws


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