Heritage live!

Contractors putting the finishing touches to the festival arch in Armenian Park. — CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

JULY is set to be a fun-filled month in Penang with various activities and events being planned as part of the George Town Heritage Celebrations 2022.

The celebrations – held annually to commemorate the city’s inscription as a Unesco World Heritage Site – are returning to its physical format for the first time after two years of muted festivities due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In pre-pandemic times, the activities and events were always much anticipated as visitors looked forward to immersing themselves in the city’s cultural diversity and living traditions.

This year will be no different, as the 14th anniversary celebration of George Town’s Unesco World Heritage listing on July 7 will showcase Penang’s rich and diverse cultural elements.

George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI) general manager Dr Ang Ming Chee said the much-loved multicultural performances and interactive cultural workshops would also be part of the celebration.

“The George Town Heritage Celebration is back this year with many exciting programmes lined up in early July.

“After two years of online commemoration, the first physical celebration this year will start during the weekend of July 2 and 3 with cultural performances by talented, passionate cultural practitioners and artisans from Penang.

“The annual celebration returns with over 20 cultural performances, nine cultural workshops and eight video documentations.

“Emphasis is given to performance arts and traditional craft, while stressing on the importance of peaceful coexistence between people, nature and culture,” she said.

Among the performances that will be showcased are boria, Odissi dance, dikir barat, lion dance, martial arts demonstrations, Chinese orchestra medley and a sitar recital.

The highlight of the celebration on July 2 will be a 40-minute glove puppet theatre called The Monkey King’s Havoc in Heaven by the Beng Geok Hong Potehi troupe.

Visitors can look forward to Wak Long Menjadi Raja on July 3, which is a 40-minute wayang kulit by Wak Long Music and Art Centre.

“All the programmes, to be held at the Lebuh Acheh basketball court, are complimentary with no registration needed,” said Ang.

On July 7 – Penang Heritage Day – which is a public holiday in the state, she said the programme would start with the 5km George Town Discovery Walk at 7am in the George Town Unesco World Heritage Site enclave.

Those who are interested to join can register at howei.com/event_details/georgetowndiscoverywalk2022

As it will be a family-oriented celebration, teenagers, schoolchildren and their families are invited to take part in the “Cultural Workshops in the Garden” from 5.30pm to 9.30pm also on July 7 at Armenian Park in Lebuh Acheh.

Visitors will be able to experience interactive programmes such as making wau, henna art, woodblock prints, wayang kulit (shadow play), kolam (Indian decorative art), thoranam (hanging decorations), khat (Jawi calligraphy), Chinese calligraphy and the paper-cutting craft during the evening.

“These workshops are organised in partnership with the Penang Islamic Foundation, Penang Hindu Association, Penang Clan Associations Youth Committee, Van Hin Book Co and Wak Long Music and Art Centre.

“No registration is required and participation will be available on a first-come, first-served basis,” said Ang.

She said the Penang Cultural Heritage’s In The New Normal mini-documentary films would be screened at Dewan Belia Lebuh Acheh in George Town on July 7.

She highlighted that these documentaries were made by local film talents during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We hope that these films will be inspiring for the people as Malaysians enter the post-Covid-19 era this year,” she added.

On facilities, Ang said drinking water dispensers would be set up at the celebration venues and visitors could refill their water bottles.

“Additional public toilets will also be provided,” she said.

As car parking spots are limited, visitors are advised to use public transport or carpool, or consider parking their vehicles at the multi-storey carpark in the Komtar area and walking to Armenian Park for the celebrations.

“The Armenian Park will be decorated for this special occasion, so join us with your friends and families to create some good memories,” said Ang.

The George Town Heritage Celebrations will be followed by the iconic George Town Festival taking place from July 9 to 24 (see sidebar).

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