First published June 2011.
I have just opened this show and despite broken foot we all got it up & hung! I say' we' because without my wonderful husband, son & daughter, plus great pal Gwynn who stapled all the swiftlet mobiles together, and of course Siti, our lovely maid who very patiently cut out all the vinyl swiftlets, this show would not have happened. Mark Hall kindly lent me his wonderful documentary photographs of heritage buildings to use in the show.
The broken foot was a bit of bad luck but it forced me to spend more time in the studio working. I also learnt that in George Town, there is nothing to entice the disabled to wander around- it is unbelievably difficult on crutches! This has got me thinking too....
'Wayang!' means 'Show!' in Malay. The biggest show to me is George Town itself- and it changes each day. This collection of artworks and small installations are personal comments on my feelings about George Town, and in particular, my frustration with the whole swiftlet farming issue in George Town, and increasingly, in the whole of Malaysia.
I called the show " 'Wayang!' A Decorated Gallery" because all the works together do look so very pretty. This is the whole point...George Town, UNESCO World Heritage Site, precious for both tangible & intangible heritage, looks totally gorgeous when you are a visitor.
As a full time resident, however, there are underlying problems and these are really insidious things and will creep up on us because of lack of enforcement and implementation of a bigger plan to maintain this site so that it remains intact for the future benefit of all of us here- the people of George Town in particular. This slow & invisible 'creep' is so very hard to reverse.
The swiftlet farming issue is really mad. The population of these birds, already at unprecedented levels, is increasing all the time, and with 173 swiftlet farms in heritage houses turned into artificial caves within the 1 square mile of the World Heritage Site here, we are just waiting for the tipping point to hit us. Illegal extensions to heritage buildings, damage to heritage buildings, noise, smell, threat to public health & safety...what are the authorities waiting for? These farms have to be closed down. 173 chicken farms full of feces and birds and noise would not be allowed.
Living right in the middle of the heritage zone everyday life is fascinating and I do love all the pluses this city provides. It is a truly inspiring place. My notes attached to the pieces, comment on some of the people I see praying everyday, on recycling, on the ban on plastic bags in the state of Penang, on our attitude to heritage and old things, on what I love about George Town that is under threat, and on my very mixed feelings about the whole UNESCO listing. It is not all good! A massive rise in mass tourism destroys the authenticity of any place.
So yes, This last couple of years of living in the city has got me thinking and working with the Penang Heritage Trust where I sit on the council, to make this wonderful city a better place, inspire people to care for their heritage and believe in its value. It is precious! because it is irreplaceable!
We had a lovely opening with supportive friends and the show will be up until the 22nd of July 2011. Enjoy the show!
About 'Wayang!' See the link below: