The heArt of Penang


A few months ago, sitting in a brilliant little Asian-fusion café in Maroochydore on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, I found myself wondering about the origins of the interesting graffiti type artwork around the walls. I think we’ve all seen these pictures wherever the mere suggestion of Asian food is served.

Something about the people and the designs suggested perhaps Vietnam or even Cambodia. Not so. These iconic art murals and so many more are to be found in and around the streets of George Town, Penang.

Back in 2012 the local council contracted a young Lithuanian guy, Ernest Zacharevic, to breathe some artistic life into the town, and that’s exactly what he did. His inspiring work encouraged other artists to follow on and now George Town is rich with brilliant intuitive art all over the place.

Other really interesting works were the cast iron wall “sculptures” that are a bit like caricatures, telling little cartoon stories about the social history of George Town. Even famous shoe maker Jimmy Choo gets a mention as having started his apprenticeship in Penang. We certainly didn’t know that.

The first night in our Airbnb, Dave slammed his foot into the camouflaged leg of the bed. Once the initial gut wrenching pain started to subside we figured out his little toe was broken.

Undeterred, Dave still managed to hobble around and we wanted to follow a self guided street art walk. The map showed the sites are spread all around the town and would take us several hours of walking in the extreme heat. By the time we’d struggled through the map for a while, and just in case anyone was going to get cranky, we decided to hop on a rickshaw and get the driver to take us around.

Honestly, the poor guy really earned his MYR50 (around $15) in the heat, with both of us squashed into the tiny seat (obviously made for smaller bottoms) for an hour or so.

We’d seen plenty of people walking around with coloured ice balls so we thought having one would be a good way to cool us down.

But that turned out to be a bad idea, really awkward trying to manage a camera, a sticky melting ice ball in a container, and struggling to get in and out of the too-tight rickshaw seat to see and photograph the art. And to not be cranky.

Add to the mix throngs of tourists lining up to have their photos taken so we soon gave up on the whole idea and threw the ice balls in the bin and called it quits.

I don’t want you to think it was a bad day, far from it, it was a brilliant experience. In fact it all ended well because we found a very cool Dutch bar with icy cold beer and we chatted with a lovely Kiwi couple for a while.

Just so you can see how brilliant the George Town street art is, and why we recommend a visit to Penang, have a look at these …….

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Tricia Ellis

    Love the photo’s. They are soooo life like. Even though I don’t weigh much I always feel guilty in a rickshaw. Guilt follows me in Asia. hmmmm.

    1. whereverarewe

      Yes, the guilt thing is certainly something to work through here. But I think it is all relative……

  2. Joe

    Your collection of beautiful photos really captured the street art. I especially like the way real objects are used to create three dimensional scenes.

    1. whereverarewe

      Thanks Joe, the art really is so creative. Hopefully they can withstand the ravages of time and weather.

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