Here's how you can spend an arts weekend in Penang … virtually!

A documentary on Penang's favourite pop group Alleycats titled 'Hingga Akhir Nanti' is a highlight on April 4. Photo: Handout

Interstate travels may not be allowed just yet but that doesn’t mean you can’t "walk about" the island state of Penang this weekend.

O:PEN - A Weekend in Penang is all set to give vacation-deprived Malaysians the break we need with a line-up of online and physical events from today till Sunday (April 4).

This new initiative by the Penang Arts Council (PAC) is supported by the Penang State Exco for Tourism and Creative Economy (PETACE).

“O:PEN is a testimony of the resilience of Penang’s creative forces in the face of lockdowns and closures over the past 12 months, ” says Joe Sidek, PAC’s chairman.

“This is a result of countless individuals, organisations and groups volunteering and contributing their talents, time and effort to present and showcase these programmes, ” he adds.

O:PEN, a portmanteau and play on the phrases "Open Penang” and “O Penang”, was originally conceived to be a monthly weekend series of events, slated for an October launch last year.

But the project was shelved due to the pandemic situation.

This virtual event aims to boost and revitalise Penang’s tourism and creative sector, which had been severely affected due to the pandemic.

“I find it encouraging and inspiring to see so many artists, organisers and supporters, including differently-abled community come together to build this event, and PETACE is proud to endorse and support O:PEN as one of the efforts by Penangites who, on their own initiative, undertake to rebuild the creative economy sector in the state and continue the branding of Penang as a hub for the arts, culture and creativity, ” offers Yeoh Soon Hin, the Penang state exco for tourism and creative economy.

For this inaugural weekend event, there is a good mix of virtual (live and pre-recorded) and on-site programmes.

Get to know more about traditional Hokkien puppet theatre or PoTeHi in Reviving PoTeHi in Penang: A Documentary (Apr 4,10.15pm) on the event’s Facebook page.

Produced by Penang House of Music and Paul Augustin, the documentary features Prof Tan Sooi Beng and her efforts on rejuvenating the art of Hokkien Potehi glove puppet theatre in Penang, including the initiation of a collective of young artists known as Ombak Potehi.

A scene from 'Reviving PoTeHi In Penang: A Documentary'. Photo: HandoutA scene from 'Reviving PoTeHi In Penang: A Documentary'. Photo: Handout

For dance fans, don't miss mengHIJAU tomorrow at 8.30pm also on the event’s Facebook page.

This dance presentation video, choreographed by Penangite dance/choreographer Pexstret Liu, takes Penang dance out into the open and rediscovers nature as a source of creative inspiration.

Another documentary worth checking out is The Alleycats: A Research Documentary (April 4,2pm). Produced by filmmaker Nor Hazlin Nor Salam and sponsored by Sunway University in collaboration with Penang House of Music, this research film documentary explores the untold stories of the Alleycats, one of Penang’s most iconic pop groups.

But if you’re in Penang, be sure to check out Solos For Spring, a ticked live show (RM53) at George Town’s Eastern & Oriental Hotel on Sunday at 5pm. This evening of solo repertoire will feature some of Penang’s best classical musicians and vocalists.

Another live event to check out is the Creative Brands Penang and Hin Bus Weekend Market. This all-day free event (April 3) features a market of curated creative brands, artists and artisans as part of the newly launching Hin Weekend Market.

More details: Penang Arts Council

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