Street art from the heart
In a recent issue of T&I (October 17-18), I wrote about civic art in George Town, Penang. In the core of this most delightful of Malaysian cities there are streets plastered with murals and interactive wall art that invite passers-by to linger and often smile at the sheer wit and inventiveness.
These are not bright billboard images but artworks that blend into the peeling fabric of shop-houses, public buildings and small hotels. This picture shows two laughing youngsters seemingly perched on a bicycle. The propped bike, however, is real, as are the motorcycle and swings in other similarly clever works. The streets of George Town are all the cheerier for their presence.
In parallel fashion, pop-ups are all the go, from restaurants and food trucks to hole-in-the-wall shops that are sprouting around my patch of inner-city Sydney as Christmas draws nigh. At Woy Woy, near our beach-house weekender, Fishermen’s Wharf has had guest chefs popping up this year over weekends and it has been fun to sample food from the likes of NYC’s Matty Bennett of The Lucky Bee and Sydney’s Matteo Zamboni of Pilu at Freshwater.
Neighbourhood markets are suddenly back in vogue and the offerings have evolved way beyond cheap batik shirts and bulk incense. Instead of mass-market imports, the emphasis is on the hand-hewn and locally sourced. Such markets often are mobile, moving around suburbs or districts, setting up temporary bases in school grounds or village halls.
There will be stall-holders with very particular specialities, from soy candles to chunky pickles, and an agreeable sense of pride at the flourishing of their cottage industries. And prepared-on-the-spot food is part of the mix, usually up-to-the-minute stuff such as matcha shakes and paellas. Sausage sizzles? Yes, but the snags will be in flavours such as Moroccan lamb and raisin. Gluten-free? No probs. Sugar-free macarons? Sure.
Back in George Town, the pop-up hawkers at the food markets are hardly so nomadic. Territory is tightly held. They fold up their stalls by night, or throw over a waterproof sheeting, but next morning they are back, as their families have been for decades. But these days more tourists are stopping by, hungry from pacing the street art trail.
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