On our recent trip to Malaysia (insert obligatory “Malaysia, Truly Asia jingle), we spent a single day in George Town, a historic colonial city on the northwestern island of Penang. The city has an incredibly rich history, contains beautiful colonial structures, and officially boasts the best Laksa on earth.
Don’t get me wrong, I truly enjoy history; I’m currently a history teacher after all! I also enjoy food as evidenced by my increasingly chunky frame. But personally, the highlight of George Town wasn’t the historic clock towers, quaint forts or gaudily ornamented mansions nor was it the mind-bogglingly delicious food served in stomach-ballooning quantities. The fondest memories I take away from George Town are discovering and subsequently hunting for the thought-provoking street art peppering the crumbling back-alleys and decaying side streets of the city.
I have always loved street art and graffiti; and, when I say graffiti, I don’t mean the random scribbling’s of immature teens on shopkeeper’s doors, apartment walls or industrial electrical boxes. I mean the real thing - paintings on the wall encompassing social commentary, political cheekiness and dry humor. Street art has always caught my eye, brightened my day and made me think. Even as a child, I remember sitting in our minivan intently watching passing walls for new markings as we drove through the streets of Dartmouth. I would grin ecstatically each time I glimpsed a beautiful new piece of art and sink into my seat in disappointment when it was painted over soon after.
Today, I guess I’m not that much different. The discovery that George Town possesses world-class street art instantly sent me on a wandering quest through the backstreets in search of famous and more recent artwork. Below are just a few of my favorites that we found on our meandering search.
Upon further research after we’d returned to our hostel, I learned that George Town has embraced street art by hiring artists from far and wide to create murals and street-art relevant to life in Penang. Many of the most famous murals are fading quickly and there have been recent problems with vandalism. Fortunately for us, most were still there waiting for us. Even though it’s often tucked away out of sight and difficult to find, the street-art of Penang is definitely worth taking the time to find!
If you’re interested in learning more, check out the link below for a more informed summary of the street art of George Town along with pictures of many murals we didn't find.
Further details on the rest of our Malaysia trip soon!