Celebrating multicultural Penang in a breezy way

Julian (left) briefing a visitor about the now defunct Penang ferries, immortalised in one of his pieces displayed at the Sama-Sama exhibition.

LOCALS visiting the Sama-Sama: George Town exhibition by Lefty Julian can instantly relate to many of the scenes and stories depicted in his comic-style art.

From the city’s iconic streets to its now defunct double-decker ferries, the 12 pieces on display encapsulated how everyday life is like in multi-cultural Penang.

“Speaking to some visitors, it’s amazing how they quickly recognise what’s portrayed. These are our collective memories as Penangites and it’s what connects us all,” said Julian.

All pieces were done with ink on canvas and with yellow accents for texture.

It had five core subjects — Armenian Street, Campbell Street Market, Penang Ferries, Tamil Street and Green Hall.

“I was born and raised in Penang, but never really in George Town itself. So last year, I decided to rent a place in town for two months. I spent my days exploring different areas.

“What I wanted to celebrate was the multicultural interactions and harmonious coexistence among locals, which are organic and natural,” Julian explained, adding that the entire project took nine months.

The exhibition, which was held at Mini Cube @ Mano Plus from Nov 20 to 28, was part of the George Town Festival 2021’s ‘Nine Days, Eight Exhibitions’ campaign.

Among the pieces featured was ‘Sundry For All’ which depicted a traditional Chinese sundry shop in Tamil Street near Chowrasta Market, patronised by customers from all walks of life.

“The owner stocks different items to cater to everyone. And people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds happily go there without any prejudices.”

Another, ‘Best Place on a Ferry’, shows a father and son heading to the upper deck of a ferry to enjoy the scenic views.

He said climbing those steep steps was something many Penangites would have memories of, growing up.

“I see this project as documentary storytelling. The characters may be fictional, but their stories are based on my real experiences and interviews with people.

“It’s what makes the Malaysian way of life special. Everybody has their own cultures and beliefs, but happily interact in their daily activities. You don’t get such harmony in most other places.

“I’m not painting a rosy picture for the sake of viewers, but portraying how life actually is for people on the ground — away from the political noise,” he added.

At The Whiteaways Arcade just a stone’s throw away, prominent contemporary artist Red Hong Yi and her artistic team presented an exhibition titled ‘Thank God It’s Monday’.

It featured a diverse array of experimental and curiosity-driven personal projects that explored various themes and techniques, from pencil sketches to sculptures and the digital realm of non- fungible tokens (NFTs).

Hong Yi shared, “One day I came across Google’s 20-Percent Rule while browsing the web. The policy encourages employees to spend 20% of their time working on personal passion projects, while spending the remaining 80% on core work.

“I felt it was a great policy to implement in my studio to eliminate the dreaded Monday blues. As a result, we all look forward to Mondays when we get to dive into things that are close to our hearts.”

The festival’s second campaign, ‘Nine Days Eight Shows’, is currently on and continues until Dec 12.

Visit georgetownfestival.com for more details.

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