Malaysia through the lenses of a Mat Salleh
By Philippe A.Durant
Yesterday, the Senior Minister proudly announced that Perak is now a “Green State”, moved from CMCO to RMCO. As I had no idea what the difference was, being lost in all those acronyms and rules, I asked a few people and posted the question online but I still did not get a clear reply. It looks like it does not change anything major in daily life and that we are still restricted to the State for our movements.
Day 24: Penang Island Part 1 – Street Art
I have lived and worked in Penang for two years when I first came to Malaysia. I have gone back many times since. It is my favorite destination to bring my dogs to play on the beach and to buy outstanding breads and croissants from the Baking Garage in Permai 32. Sadly, the restriction of movement has limited my trips to the island.
Penang was founded by Francis Light in 1786 on behalf of the East India Company. People from the surrounding areas came to trade. This in turn brought traders and labourers from China and India. George Town was the centre of this economic activity and grew to become the trading hub of the northern part of the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra.
Penang is famous for its beaches, food and heritage culture. George Town, Penang’s capital, was once like a forbidden or “no go” area, only for the brave and curious. It was a sorry sight of old crumbling buildings. Since George Town became a world heritage site in 2008, the city’s profile has been raised so much that the state tourism bureau (Penang Global Tourism) has to make plans to cope with the additional visitors. Hotels, cafes, restaurants, guest houses and souvenir shops grew in the city like mushrooms, for the best and the worst.
Aside from that, street art also contributed to the tourist boom. An Art Challenge was organised by the State Government in 2009 called the “Marking of George Town”. It was won by “Sculpture at Work” with 52 steel rod caricatures called “Voices from the People” which had designs to reflect the character of George Town. The George Town Festival 2012 commissioned Ernest Zacharevic from Lithuania (only 35 years old today) for the “Mirrors George Town” project. It had some innovative exhibits together with several large scale murals. Ernest and his companion at the time came several times to our place. Today he is a world famous artist.
The large murals transformed the perception of George Town. The old narrow streets were transformed into a lively and engaging area. The small “live” innovative exhibits really brought worldwide interest in the Penang Street Art and George Town. They have become favourites and tourists came from all over the country and abroad for the murals.
(Ref: https://myfacesandplaces.co.uk/penang-street-art/ and Wikipedia)
There are murals everywhere in Georgetown, as well as street art tours and maps of the street art. Other artists have come from different parts of the world to the island. Some are really exceptional while some are, I would say, mediocre but that’s my perception. Prior to the MCO, people were still queueing in front of paintings and taking selfies in front of most of them. This first episode is dedicated to the murals and mostly the ones by Ernest.
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