Penang is often thought of as the food capital of Malaysia but as a vegetarian, that wasn’t what drew me to this island. For me, it was the art and the meeting of Indian, Chinese, and Malay cultures with a British colonial history. While the latter has been interesting to observe, it’s the art that really drew me in. I could spend days wandering around staring at the works lining George Town’s streets, pausing only to continue searching for vegetarian street food of the non-sweet variety.
The street art takes two primary forms in Penang’s capital city, George Town: iron rod sculptures that provide background on the city’s history, and paintings. The former were the result of a 2009 competition to brand the city as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the latter started in 2012 when Ernest Zacharevic was commissioned to paint a few murals around the Core Zone of George Town. Other artists have since joined the party.
Free maps that identify the location of all 52 sculptures “Marking George Town” are easy to come by and while I haven’t seen all 52, I enjoyed those I came across. Each provides a tidbit of history that I wouldn’t otherwise learn seeing as I’m here without a guide book and not planning to visit any of the local museums.
Maps also indicate some of the more popular paintings but a keen set of eyes is still necessary as many are hidden behind trees or blocked by parked cars. And far more exist than are shown on any one map. Not surprisingly, many are often surrounded by tourists taking pictures of each other but I had those off the beaten track all to myself.
Do you have a favorite of those pictured here? I’d love to know in the comments!