The Marking George Town Steel Rod Sculptures is a collection of caricatures placed on historic streets of George Town by the company, Sculpture At Work. The company on 29 March, 2010, won the design idea competition organized by the Penang State Government on 7 September, 2009.
The concept presented by Sculpture at Work is to relate the history and/or characteristic of selected streets in George Town using steel rod caricatures of local cartoonists. The reason is to make the history of George Town interesting and easily grasped by visitors and residents, the young and the old.
I have to admit that I have some reservations when Sculpture at Work brought out the concept of steel-rod caricatures to convey the street history of George Town. I had wanted something more elegant, like the fabulous Dioramas of Penang Scenes that they had created. However over time I slowly grew to like these cartoons.
Having said that, I do have a comment about them. I find the caricatures "too Chinese". Many of the tales are Chinese-centric, seen from Chinese eyes, perhaps because the cartoonists are Chinese. Even when a non-Chinese theme is depicted, it is through a Chinese perspective. For example Mee Goreng is described as Kelinga Mee. Don't get me wrong: I am proud of the Penang Chinese heritage and I work hard to promote the survival of Penang Hokkien. At the same time, however, I need to remind everybody that George Town is more than just a Chinese city. It had a cosmopolitan mix of Malay, Indian, Eurasian, and many other ethnic group long before the Chinese became the dominant group in the city.
I am happy with the caricatures that have been put up, and would not want them to be removed just because of what I've said. Rather, I hope that through the feedback I have given, Sculptures at Work will try to balance things by creating more caricatures that feature non-Chinese themes. This will definitely showcase the rich tapestry that is George Town.
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