Little children on a bicycle by Ernest Zacharevic

George Town: South East Asia’s little known street art hub

A UNESCO Heritage site in South East Asia is probably the last place you’d expect to find a thriving street art scene. Yet the historic city of George Town in Malaysia is full of the stuff.

Wander the streets of its protected old town and you’ll find a world of painted walls that tell stories of life in the very city they are placed within.

The street art movement in George Town began back in 2010, when the government of Penang commissioned a group called Sculpture at Work to create a collection of steel art pieces to decorate the city centre. But it wasn’t until 2012, when Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic was commissioned to do a series of street paintings for the George Town festival, that the trend really took off.

At first the reaction to Zacharevic’s paintings was adverse. Then Malaysia had no street art scene and a negative stigma towards graffiti. But it didn’t take long for the brilliance and skill of his work to become loved by the people of George Town, and then start to attract visitors on an international scale. With some even being describing him as Asia’s answer to Banksy.

Since then the trend has snowballed with continuous artwork popping up all over the city. Although there are so many amazing pieces of street art to see in George Town, here are my favourites and a little bit about them.

 

Little children on a bicycle (Ernest Zacharevic)

Little children on a bicycle by Ernest Zacharevic

This is one of the two murals painted by Ernest Zacharevic, for the George Town festival in 2012, which helped set off the whole street art movement.

Where to find it: On a shop wall on Armenian Street

Three Cultural Girls (Unknown)

Three Cultural Girls, George Town, Penang

This little piece is easy to miss as it’s so small, but the detailing is wonderful. The three women depict the three main cultures in Malaysia: Chinese, Malay and Indian, and their unity standing together as one nation.

Where to find it: Lorong Soo Hong

Love Me Like Your Fortune Cat (ASA)

Love Me Like Your Fortune Cat, George Town, Penang

Love me like your fortune cat was one of the pieces of artwork installed by a group of artists called ASA for the project called 101 Lost Kittens. The project had the idea to raise awareness of the issue of stray animals and the importance of finding homes for them. Here the illustration of a stray cat gazes up at the fortune cats surrounding it, perhaps wondering why they seem to have better luck than him.

Where to find it: Armenian Street

Lion Dance (Unknown)

Lion Dance, George Town, Penang

This particular work is an illustration of a lion like those usually depicted in celebrations throughout Asia.

Where to find it: Armenian Street

Skippy (ASA)

Skippy by ASA, George Town, Penang

This is another piece that is part of the 101 Lost Kittens project by ASA which they hope will raise awareness for stray animals in the city.

Where to find it: Armenian Street

Unknown

Street art, George Town, Penang

There wasn’t much information on this particular artwork, but I liked that is seems so full of life, and the mystery of not quite knowing what story it is telling.

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