PENANG, MALAYSIA – Initiated by Penang Arts Council, OPEN – A Weekend in Penang (O:PEN) is a virtual, recurring festival dedicated to rejuvenating the arts in post-pandemic Penang. Its newest edition runs from 2nd to 4th April, with a series of virtual programmes ranging from visual arts, dance, music, online markets, talks, and film, all happening online.
The festival kickstarts on the night of Good Friday at 8.30pm, with a series of pre-recorded premieres on Facebook. These include the music video for ‘Tanjung Penaga’, which pays homage to the original name of George Town. Based on the Malay classic composition by Tan Sri Ahmad Merican, Tanah Pusaka (which also almost became Malaysia’s national anthem!), this rendition of Tanjung Penaga is performed by Penang singer Nurlida ab Rahman and the amazingly-abled musicians of Kumpulan Muzik Asli Alunan Mutiara.
On day 2, look out for the premieres of dance video Menghijau with choreography by Pexstret Liu, and conceptual music video Aranya, featuring Buddha Beat and Luvenaia Kahlia.
To get a glimpse of Penang, join The Moe-Hawk and Joe Sidek in Chasing The Tiger by Tiger Tatt and Penang Hidden Gems, or join in Tanjung Talks and panel discussions Unpacking Self and Practice, and Exhibition without Walls to gain insight into Penang’s art from experts.
On day 3, look out for the premiere of The Aleycats, a research documentary by filmmaker Nor Hazlin Nor Salam exploring the untold stories of the band of brothers, along with their love for music, relationships with their family and friends in a culturally rich environment, how they overcame the many ups and downs along the way and learned to stay true to what they loved best – making great music that cuts through all boundaries and enjoyed by all.
Other documentaries include Penang House of Music and Paul Augustin’s Reviving PoTeHi in Penang, where Professor Tan Sooi Beng’s efforts at rejuvenating the art of Hokkien Potehi glove puppet theatre in Penang are featured, along with a collective of young artists known as Ombak Potehi, who bring new stories about cosmopolitan Penang to their traditional street performances.
With the E&O Hotel as one of the festival’s main venues, expect plenty of events happening there too, including the ticketed Solos For Spring, where a group of talented musicians will be performing solos at the Macallister Ballroom, or the Writers Reading Room, where Alasdair Clayre, Cecil Rajendra and Jay Menon gather to speak live (streamed) at the Noel Coward Suite.
Also happening is TEN X TEN, a series of videos exploring Penang’s street street foods, cafes, hotels, products and cultural cuisines. From The Mugshot Cafe at Chulia Street, to the Rainforest Bakery, Kafka @ Victoria, PIKNIK, Seven Terraces, The Blue Mansion, 23 Love Lane, Campbell House and more, let these hosts introduce you to the people and personalities behind these beloved establishments.
In the ART2ART series, get up-close and personal with Penangite artists in ART2ART, where each episode will feature a pair of artists from contrasting genres who will chat about their work, practice, and what motivates or inspires them. Featured artist pairs include contemporary artists Esther Geh and Fuan Wong, as well as Sharon Kow and Aboud Fares.
Other highlights include the series Highlights of the Permanent Collection of Penang State Art Gallery (PSAG). Happening over the weekend, watch as Dato’ Dr Tan Chee Kuan, Dato’ Tang Hon Yin, Dr Sarena Abdullah and Lee Khai, chairman of the PSAG, present a closer look at some of these works of art in the collection, along with stories about the artists behind these treasures.
If you want to stretch your feet and get a little shopping done, head to the Creative brands Penang X Hin Bus Weekend Market, or for the plant parents, check out The Green Room Virtual Plant Pop Up Shop. For the art collectors, head to Gilded Lion at the E&O, which features black and white artworks and objects for sale, along with antique engravings, aquatints, woodcuts, lithographs and etchings from the 17th century and beyond, ideal for any collectors looking for a new piece.
With the pandemic having had a devastating effect on the world at large, O:PEN promises to bring a little light for a weekend, delivering art to your screens and showcasing the beauty and heritage of Penang. Join them online, and start planning to visit these places in person for when the borders reopen, and appreciate the sheer diversity and creativity on show this weekend.
O:PEN runs from 2nd to 4th April 2021 online. For more information, visit their Facebook page here