We have not been seeking them out specifically, but once again, we are about to visit another UNESCO heritage listed site. George Town, on the Malaysian island and capital of the state of Penang, has had a very culturally diversified history and in July 2008 UNESCO formally recognised George Town’s unique architecture and cultural townscape by inscribing it as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
George Town went through tremendous transformation from its humble beginning in the late 18th century as the first British Straits settlement, from a swampy frontier town to a bustling trading post. George Town’s architecture reflects the various ethnicities that settled here over 2 centuries – Chinese, Indians, Arabs, Malays, Achehnese, Siamese, Burmese and Europeans each bringing their own building styles such as Indo-Malay palladian, Anglo-Indian and Sino-Anglo bungalows, neo-classical, art deco, and modern, together with mosques, churches, and Chinese and Indian temples.
In an effort to make George Town world heritage zone easily recognisable, as Seville did by planting orange trees along the streets within their world heritage zone, the “Marking George Town” competition was launched by the Penang State Government in 2009. It encouraged innovative ideas in art and design for public spaces in George Town. Out of all the local and international entries, Sculptureatwork triumphed with its design concept of ‘voices from the people’, a series of 52 unique and humorous annecdotal illustrations of George Town’s colourful history in the form of iron rod sculptures, installed against the city’s building walls.
George Town Festival 2012 commissioned “Marking George Town” by Ernest Zacharevic, a young Lithuanian born artist from George Town, a project designed to turn the streets of George Town into an open air art gallery. His murals celebrate the living heritage of the city’s inhabitants.
“101 Lost Kittens” was originally a project by a group of artists working to install a dozen street art at various points within the George Town UNESCO World Heritage Site to raise awareness of the plight of stray animals and became part of George Town Festival 2013.
I have been looking forward to discovering George Town tomorrow, and didn’t expect to stumble across so much street art this evening on our way to dinner, a few minutes down the road from our hotel which is well outside the Unesco zone.
Anyone who knows me will be able to imagine my inexhaustible excitement, at each corner and discovery of a new piece of art, turning around, looking back and noticing another one tucked away down a small alley. The artworks themselves are wonderful. But it is the courage and foresight of both UNESCO and George Town council to support and encourage such artworks that warmed my heart. If only others around the world were so bold… I had a constant smile on my face, at seeing each clever and inspiring piece but also watching other people’s enjoyment. I get the same enjoyment observing nature, noticing the smallest detail, which is there for all to see, only if we take the time to stop and admire… Anthony enjoyed the street art too but spent most of his time patiently waiting for me to be ready to walk on, mostly enjoying the sparkle in my eyes he tells me 🙂
We also visited a fantastic little museum. The first part was dedicated to the history of Penang, and the last part to 3D art. Here are a couple of fun examples.
Not only is the street art so joyous, but we both love talking to the locals, observing all the small businesses still thriving here such as the printmaker who still uses a massive 70 year old printing machine to print receipt books and ledgers for local businesses. I could easily have spent a week in George Town, loving its rich history, cultural diversity and architecture. We will just have to come back one day but for now, Kuala Lumpur is calling us as we need to get the bikes serviced and Streak fixed before our next leg – the new part installed in Chiang Mai didn’t fix my problem and came back the day we left Chiang Mai.