“Mural, Mural on the wall, which is the best mural of them all?” Is it the children on the bicycle? The Indian lady praying near the tree? The old man on a boat? Tough choice.

Well, wall murals are not something new. I grew up seeing murals painted on the school walls but I didn’t find it special until 2012. It was the year when the famed mural “Little Children on a Bicycle” created by Ernest Zacharevic, a Lithuanian artist put George Town on the world map as the city of murals.

Ernest was commissioned by the Penang Government to lead a street art project entitled, “Mirror George Town” as part of the George Town Heritage Festival. I remember that year, I became a mural hunter, walking down memory lane of the city I once lived in.

I discovered more than just murals featuring figure drawings, cats and others. I found myself again. Yes, the murals made me reflect and learn to appreciate those little things in life and the diversity of the community, the living heritage of George Town I used to be accustomed with.

Tourist Attractions

Thanks to the murals, the state tourism industry is booming as more tourists flocked into the city to catch the murals like The Little Girl in Blue, Boy On A Bike, Children In A Boat, The Awaiting Trishaw Peddlar, The Cat Mural and others.

Local artists and new international artists were engaged for more creative murals. These include the Old Man on A Boat and Indian Lady Praying by Julia Volchkova, a Russian artist.

Other Towns Following Suit

And it didn’t take long for other towns and cities to emulate George Town. In Ipoh, the former mining town has a new lease of life with wall murals like Chinese Style Mining Town, Yellow Hummingbird, Kopi Break, Uncle Drinking Coffee and more.

In Kuala Lumpur, the mural enclave is around Chinatown. I took a quaint stroll along the back alleys there few weeks ago and discovered some unique murals by Ernest Zacherevic. One was “Rage Against the Machine” featuring a bunch of school children venting anger at the bus. It was truly magnificent with its unique combination of cut out bus panels with semi-sculptural mural.

The east coast of Malaysia has also jumped on the bandwagon by displaying charming murals showcasing the culture and lifestyle of the Palestinians along the backlane of the PAS Building in Kota Bharu, Kelantan.

The mural fever continues to head south in Muar Johor, as Julia Volchkova created the nation’s biggest mural as certified by the Malayia Book Of Records (MBOR). With measurement of 11.80 metres in height and 9.75 metros in width, the mural features the portrait of two sisters aged 7 and 3.

Murals Of Hospitality

Apart from street murals, I also notice a new trend has emerged. Boutique hotels, cafes and shopping malls are tapping on the popularity of murals to draw customers. Two months ago, I stayed in Hotel de Art in i-City and found myself surrounded by fairy tales and fantasy murals like The Hobbit, Super Mario and others. The hotel called itself homecoming in art.

Whatever it is, murals continue to become one of the key attractions to boost more tourists nationwide. Spreading the love of art, this trend is truly a “mural’velous” surprise happening around Malaysia.

Words & Photos by Francis Yip

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