Graffiti in the old town
One of the most unique landmarks of the Penang capital.
George Town, the capital of the Malaysian state of Penang, has been attracting tourists and travellers from all the globe for a long time. However, its street art scene boomed in 2012, when Ernest Zacharevicm a Lithuanian artist, created 6 wall paintings during the celebration of the annual George Town festival. This murals soon became worldwide famous, to the point where one of them, Children on a Bicycle, is one the most photographed spots of the city.
Today, years later, the old town is full of murals. The trend that Ernest Zacharevic kept growing, making the street art scene of George Town blossom. International artists now go, invited, to leave their mark in the old town of the city, which is now one of the international capitals of this art. Walking through the old town becomes a scavenger hunt, trying to find not only all the original murals of Zacharevic but all the ones you can spot.
Street art is now integral to George Town
The original Ernest Zacharevic works and, no doubt, beautiful, clever and funny. He was called ‘Asia’s Banksy’, and while his content is definitely not political, his works can be open to interpretation.
My favorite was, probably, Boy on a Bike, located in Ah Quee Street. It could be the very ingenious use of a real bike, the expression of the boy or how beautifully framed is by the red door, but it struck me the moment I saw it. The use of real props is also seen in other works of Zacharevic, and the trend was continued by other artists.
Ernest Zacharevic kickstarted a movement that put the street art of George Town on the map, but despite the huge popularity his works we can’t forget the other ones that populate the town. With different degrees of success, other artists have tried to leave their mark in the walls of George Town, and every year there are more of them.
What it’s clear now is that street art is now integral to George Town. The depictions of the daily life of the town is definitely one of the main themes of all of them, and it kind of lets you get to know better its people and culture.
The street art has also spread outside the town center. Near my hotel, which wasn’t exactly near the old town, I saw a beautiful mural of a man selling food to a family in a street food stand, surrounded by cats. The cats, by the way, seem to be one of the recurring themes of the murals, specially in the Armenian street where you can find a good amount of cat-themed paintings.
While the mural near my hotel was (or at least looked) fairly new, sadly the original Ernest Zacharevic works are fading, and in a few years they will be probably gone, weathered away by the elements. In the five years that passed when I visited George Town the damage was clearly visible, and it’s only getting worst.
If you are thinking about going there, there is a fantastic online map that shows most of the street art works. You can find it here, feel free to explore George Town and do this particular scavenger hunt!