I never quite completely got over my whirlwind infatuation with Georgetown. I went last September with the sole objective of luxuriating and lazing around its historic streets and shophouses without a care in the world.Where to have my next meal was my only preoccupation. I ate my way through Georgetown’s narrow lanes, filled my days with sunshine, and gazed at the town’s public art, all in the few blissful days that I called it home.
I was mainly in Georgetown to explore the well established food culture of Penang which has been a product of several waves of colonization. The UNESCO Heritage Site buffer covers pretty much most of Penang’s old district, and here, you can see shophouses and buildings that have been protected and preserved.
While most of the heritage structures have survived and are still very much intact, some of them have succumbed to the elements and are starting to crumble brick by brick. When the government of Penang and the UNESCO Heritage Commission thought of giving the alleys a facelift, what they had in mind was a series of commissioned murals and public art that represented the sweet life of the locals.
There are hundreds of these artworks scattered around the buffer zone, but one of the biggest names in the Georgetown art scene is Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevich, who painted some of the most iconic representations of the city. In 2012, Zacharevich participate in the Georgetown Arts and Culture festival and created his first ever constructive public art project. He adorned 6 walls over the course of 3 months, and started a new trend of bringing Penang’s art and culture outdoors, where they are more accessible to passersby and the thousands of tourists that wash up on their shores day in and day out.
Nowadays, there are several dozen murals and public art installations that one can visit in Georgetown. They even have maps available at hostels and tourism offices to direct visitors to each one of them. Viewing all these art has become a popular daytime activity in the city, and one could rent bicycles and motorcycles (or even go on foot, stopping for dim sum or pastries every few blocks or so) so that they can check out all of these thoughtful and creative murals at their leisure.
It becomes a treasure hunt of sorts because as much as the maps help, some of the artworks are hidden in plain sight and were made to look as if they have been there forever. Some of them are easy to spot, as there is usually a gaggle of tourists taking turns snapping photos, but some of them are a little out of the way. The locals are helpful and they gladly point out these hidden ones, but in my case, Google Maps was a bit more reliable.
Make sure to check this out when you go to Georgetown. All of the artworks can be viewed free of charge. All it takes is a trusty map and your trusted friend in two to take your photos for you, et voila! Something totally free yet absolutely interesting to do in Georgetown!
Have you seen these Georgetown artworks yourself? Which one is your favorite mural? Sound off in the comments!