For one month each year George Town, in Malaysia, becomes a large open air gallery to commemorate its inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage list and the result is delightful.
George Town was founded in 1786 by a trader for the British East India Company and named after King George III. Today, Penang is known as an electronics hub and tourist destination popular for its beaches and street food.
In 2008, the colonial district of George Town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
UNESCO: "Melaka and George Town, historic cities of the Straits of Malacca have developed over 500 years of trading and cultural exchanges between East and West in the Straits of Malacca.
The influences of Asia and Europe have endowed the towns with a specific multicultural heritage that is both tangible and intangible.... The two towns constitute a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia....
[They are] remarkable examples of historic colonial towns on the Straits of Malacca that demonstrate a succession of historical and cultural influences arising from their former function as trading ports linking East and West.
These are the most complete surviving historic city centres on the Straits of Malacca with a multi-cultural living heritage originating from the trade routes from Great Britain and Europe through the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and the Malay Archipelago to China.
Both towns bear testimony to a living multi-cultural heritage and tradition of Asia, where the many religions and cultures met and coexisted. They reflect the coming together of cultural elements from the Malay Archipelago, India and China with those of Europe, to create a unique architecture, culture and townscape".
George Town Festival
The George Town Festival was established in 2010 to celebrate its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Its mission is "to become the platform for culture and the arts in South-East Asia, with a focus on George Town’s unique perspectives".
This year’s Festival started on August 1 and had a total of 147 programmes consisting of art exhibitions, performances and street art all around George Town.
Many art installations are both public and free and can be enjoyed year round.
Marking George Town
Since 2009, Kuala Lumpur based Sculpture at Work has installed 52 steel rod caricatures around the heritage precinct after winning an art ideas competition. These steel diaramas ‘Marking George Town’ depict the characters, customs, stories and history of George Town.
Mirrors George Town
Five of George Town’s most famous murals are by Lithuania artist Ernest Zacharevic, who was commissioned by the George Town Festival in 2012. His ‘Mirrors George Town’ works The Little Girl In Blue, Little Children on a Bicycle, Boy on a Bike, Reaching up, and the Awaiting trishaw peddler can still be seen around the City.
101 Lost Kittens
This collection of 12 cat-related street artworks is a joint project by Thai artist
Natthapon Muangkliang and Malaysian artists Louise Low and Tang Yeok Khang aimed at creating awareness about abandoned and stray animals.
The following blog has more information on where to find the 101 Lost Kittens http://ladytravelbugs.blogspot.sg/2013/07/penang-cat-murals-location-and-map.html
Local Louis Gan is not only a self-taught artist, but hearing and speech impaired. He has produced three 'interactive' murals, two using the popular children theme introduced by Zacharevic. They are Brother and sister on a swing, Children playing basketball, and Nostalgic meal order.
Fading into obscurity
Street art is particularly vulnerable to deterioration over time. Not only from the elements, but from vandalism. Some of Zacharevic's earlier works are now gone.
Keep in mind that every year new art is introduced to supplement the old. Street art is both dynamic and impermanent. Even now a new art trail is being established.
George Town is both the capital of the Island and State of Penang. It is just a one hour flight from the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.
To get the most out of your visit find a free up to date George Town map, lace on a pair of comfortable walking shoes, and hit the street art trail. Be sure to also check out the route of the free bus that regularly loops through the heritage precinct.
Tourism Penang has a street map at http://www.tourismpenang.net.my/pdf/street-art-brochure.pdf
There is also a good map at
Armenian Street is the best starting point as it has the greatest concentration of street art.