In 2009 the Penang State Government organized an Art Challenge called the “Marking of George Town” as a way of marking Georgetown’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Won by the company Sculpture At Work, their idea was to epitomize the history of Georgetown, Penang, with wrought iron metal caricatures enabling both residents and visitors to appreciate the past.
Humorous and laden with historical facts, I have compiled a list of some of these metal caricatures which I came across during my Penang travel.
“This is the place where the famous show designer Jimmy Choo started his apprenticeship.”
Description: This caricature by local cartoonist Baba Chuah celebrates the famous shoe designer Jimmy Choo.
Location: Lebuh Leith/Lebuh Muntri
“Win Win Situation”
“Muntri Street was named after The Órang Kaya Menteri’ of Larut, Perak, Ngah Ibrahim.”
Description: Commemorating Ngah Ibrahim, the Malay nobleman of Larut who was prominent in the 19th century tin mining, this sculpture is by cartoonist Julian “Lefty” Kam.
Location: Lebuh Muntri
“Barbers used to operate here. Shorn hair was simply swept into the Prangin canal.”
Description: This caricature is by cartoonist Tang Mun Kian illustrates two barbers working on either banks of then Prangin Canal, throwing locks of cut hair into the canal.
Location: Sungai Ujong Road
“Same Taste Same Look”
“Here you’ll find traditional Cantonese restaurant selling Dim Sum.”
Description: By cartoonist Tang Mun Kian, this caricature shows two elderly diners telling an elderly dim sum waitress that the quality of the dim sum is the same.
Location: Cintra Street
“Campbell Street is Penang’s Fifth Avenue, a retail paradise where shoppers can stroll along the row of shophouses and feast their eyes on an array of goods.”
Description: This sculpture by cartoonist Reggie Lee portrays a guard arresting a burglar, who claims he has simply misplaced his keys.
Location: Campbell Street
“Nasi Kandar originated from Tamil Muslim hawking home-cooked curry dishes and rice from containers slung on both ends of a kandar (a wooden stick).”
Description: Nasi kandar, a Tamil Muslim rice meal that was originally sold in itinerant manner on the street is illustrated in this caricature here by Tang Mun Kian.
Location: Ah Quee Street
“The street is named after Kapitan Chung Keng Kwee who generously donated his house to the Municipality for vehicular access, ensuring that his name lives on for posterity.”
Description: Having his name spelled in numerous ways such as Ah Quee, Ah Kwee, Ah Kooi and Ah Kui, this sculpture by cartoonist Reggie Lee portrays an European visitor inquiring Kapitan Chung on his name.
Location: Ah Quee Street
“In the 1800’s, shops and godowns on Victoria Street were built at the Seafront.”
Description: Referencing the extension of the shoreline from Beach Street to Weld Quay, this caricature is by Julian “Lefty” Kam.
Location: Lebuh Victoria
“The Tua Pek Kong Hneoh Grand Float Procession is held in the Year of the Tiger to wash away bad luck and bring great wealth and health.”
Description: Sculpture by local cartoonist Tang Mun Kian, it shows the Grand Float Procession held in 1926. Effigies of tiger was carried through the street as it was the Year of the Tiger.
Location: Lebuh Armenian
“A cannon shot fired during the 1867 Penang Riots made a large hole in this area hence the name.”
Description: This caricature by cartoonist Tang Mun Kian portrays a trishaw peddler falling into a hole in the ground while the shocked passenger looks on.
Location: Cannon Street
“Rope walk was named after rope making activities on the street.”
Description: This sculpture shows a lady braiding a girl’s hair.
Location: Jalan Pintal Tali
“At the turn of the last century, many shophouses were turned into cheap hotels making this internationally known tourist strip very popular with backpackers.”
Description: Paying a nod to the many budget hotels that line both Love Lane and Chulia Street, this caricature is by cartoonist Reggie Lee.
Location: Chulia Street
“The local Chinese say the rich men who lived on Muntri Street kept their mistresses here, hence the name ‘Ai Cheng Hang’ or Love Lane.”
Description: This caricature by cartoonist Tang Mun Kian shows a man on the face of the wall holding a rope as he escapes from a raid staged by his wife.
Location: Love Lane
“Ting Ting Thong”
“One of the favorite foods sold at Seck Chuan Lane is ting ting thong or rock candy, a hardened mixture of sugar, sesame seeds and nuts loved by kids. It has to be “chiselled” and “hammered” to break it into smaller biteable pieces.”
Description: This sculpture by local cartoonist Baba Chuah shows a hawker going street by street to sell rock candy.
Location: Lorong Seck Chuan
“The hand-pulled rickshaw was the most popular form of transportation in early Penang.”
Description: This caricature by cartoonist Tang Mun Kian portrays a ricksaw man breaking away from his rickshaw, which is too wide to enter the lane, leaving behind his passengers.
Location: Lorong Soo Hong
“Up until the 1909, the police doubled as George Town’s firefighters.”
Description: Depicting a Punjabi man morphing between a role as policeman and another as firefighter, this sculpture is by by cartoonist Tang Mun Kian.
Location: Chulia Street.
If you liked this article, you might also like my article on Penang’s famous Mural Arts.