GEORGE TOWN: The long-forgotten padi fields of rural Balik Pulau here have become a sensation since last week thanks to an interesting mural installation.
The murals are drawn on three shipping containers stacked sideways up with the vast, green and ripening rice fields of Kampung Terang as a backdrop.
Two murals are on the back and front of the containers, one paying homage to the lesser-known farmers of Balik Pulau and another, a hawker at a market.
One side-by-side mural depicts a farmer harvesting padi by hand; next to it is that of a farmer picking up a durian which is ubiquitous in Balik Pulau.
At the back of that mural is a local street hawker at Balik Pulau’s market juxtaposed with motifs typically found in a Penang kopitiam, along with a JKR mile marker found along the roads to the rural town.
The padi and durian artwork is by Sarawakian duo Leonard Siaw and ‘Jagung’, while the kopitiam scene was drawn by Russian artist Marat Danilyan.
The murals have become an instant hit on Instagram and are currently the must-see sights of Penang, as part of the Penang International Container Arts Festival (PICAF) hosted by street art guru Tan Chor Whye and TLM Events, and supported by the Penang government.
The installations have been revealed one by one since December and will be on display from now until May.
Under the PICAF, there will be five murals on containers drawn by 12 local and international artists across the state, three on the island and two in Seberang Perai.
In Jelutong, FMT caught up with Sabahan artist Kenji Chai, who had just finished a mural of a woman toting a basket of fruits and vegetables on her head.
The mural is drawn on a shipping container at Karpal Singh Drive on the Jelutong waterfront close to the food court overlooking the Penang Bridge.
Chai spent close to a week on the mural, spending 10 hours a day in two shifts using over 30 spray cans, and brush painting off a gondola.
Explaining the mural, he said it contained the essence of Penang — the Pinang tree from which the state gets its name, the dusky leaf monkey, Nyonya batik and the terracotta roofs of heritage homes — all in the basket, carried on the head by a woman.
“This woman that I have drawn has her eyes closed in delight, a person who is relaxed, taking in the breeze from the sea nearby. She is carrying Penang’s heritage in a rattan basket on her head.
“I’ve also paid homage to my homeland of Sabah by including Kadazan motifs here and there while maintaining the essence of Penang,” he said.
Chai, who hails from Sandakan, is a full-time artist with gigs around the world. He has done more than 20 murals in China, Kazakhstan, India and the US.
The 38-year-old has drawn on the outside of a hotel wall in Jalan Dang Wangi, which has been touted as the tallest mural of its kind in Malaysia.
Those who are planning to visit the sites can go to Prangin Mall (George Town), Karpal Singh Drive (Jelutong), Kampung Terang (Balik Pulau), Dataran Pemuda Merdeka (Butterworth) and Aspen Vision City (Batu Kawan).