No matter where we are, as soon as we hear that there is some street art to discover, there is no need to tell us twice, we’ll make it our priority for sure – and that’s exactly what happened when we went searching for street art in Georgetown on the island of Penang, Malaysia.
Without being sure of what to expect in terms of the street art in Georgetown due to it being a protected UNESCO Heritage site, we simply decided to venture out there with no expectations.
"Can graffiti be allowed in such an old part of the town where its heritage needs (and has) to be preserved?"
Having no expectations is sometimes the best in my opinion, in this case the findings can either be satisfactory or simply disliked, but cannot really cause any disappointment. With this spirit we started our walk through the old town of Penang hoping to get lost while searching for art and everything else that caught our attention.
There are different artists that contributed to change the streetscape of Georgetown, one of them is the talented Lithuanian Ernest Zacharevic that has left a very unique sign on those walls that not only are appreciated from tourists, but also by the locals too.
What a Nice Challenge for the Ambitious Young Artist!
Ernest Zacharevic was commissioned in 2012 by the Penang Municipal Council to create a street art project in Georgetown called ‘Mirrors George Town‘ which consisted of painting several large scale murals in different location of the old town.
If it was me, I would have need to think carefully how to mark these walls with something that could perhaps enhance the local culture and lifestyle. Definitely not an easy task that Ernest Zacharevic managed to finish extraordinarily in my eyes!
The street art in Georgetown and his wall paintings represent characters and scenes that celebrate the energy and playfulness of life in the inner city. These murals have in fact transformed what used to be normal streets into more unusual, lively, witty and engaging ones.
There are about 9 murals in total done by the Lithuanian artist and we hope that they are still there as some of them were already fading when we visited Penang back in January 2013. Please do hurry up if you don’t want to miss them and the rest of the street art in Georgetown because soon they might disappear!
Here is a map that will certainly help you to locate them, don’t be afraid though to wonder in other side streets, there are plenty of other art pieces to be discovered, nice little shops, the local houses, temples and the scenes of the locals living their lives in these great surroundings.
Finding the Street Art
“Reaching Up” was the first painting we stumbled on and almost missed it because from distance it almost looks real. The drawn boy is in fact reaching for a hole standing on a real chair which helped our confusion.
The one we saw afterwards was difficult to spot due to its deteriorated state. All I can say is that it represents an old man, probably local. It’s a large painting indeed but without taking anything away from the effort needed to make it, isn’t one of my favourites.
Soon after we saw people posing close by an old bicycle to have a picture taken, and there were few others waiting their turn to do the same. This murals represented two children riding an actual bike, on their faces you can actually read their happiness and playfulness, if you stopped for a second you could actually hear their laughter.
From there we went to the jetty where we’ve been lucky enough to see one of the murals that unfortunately is disappearing fast due to weathering conditions as you can see from the photo.
For this one, like for all the other paintings, Ernest used an old picture of two children and a cat on a boat. Shame it’s not gonna last!
Walking back into the inner city, we spotted another little queue of people posing in funny ways, this time by a disused motorbike. This mural is on a side door (which I particularly liked) of what used to be a popular shophouse and represent a young boy (probably too young to ride a motorbike) simply watching the traffic passing by.
On the same street just few steps apart there is another painting of a child taking his dinosaur for a walk . This one is a bit surrealistic compared to the other murals but opened to personal interpretation.
Before even getting closer, we could already see a giant girl lifting herself with her hands. This painting was slightly different from the others we saw not only for its large size, but also because this time there was no smile on the painted character. I have to admit this one didn’t captured me in particular, not sure why.
The last Ernest Zacharevic’s mural we saw showed an elderly man on his trishaw paddler having a break perhaps, who knows?
Unfortunately we missed one named ‘Broken Art’, hopefully if you go out there to see those pieces one day, you’ll be more fortunate than us.
In fact we didn’t really follow a set route or a proper tour (which are available anyway), we simply wandered around freely, stopping every time we wanted to and discovering Penang’s beauty at our own pace. We liked it that way!
We recommend doing it in the same way (unless you like to be guided or you are on a very tight schedule and have no time to waste to mess around of course).
Walking around trying to find the street art in Georgetown is an amazing free activity that showed us a very different kind of street art and also made us discover so much more of the city.
Street Art in Georgetown MAP
View ‘Ernest Zacharevic Murals Walking Trail’ in a larger map