GEORGE TOWN, PENANG – Penang’s most exciting arts and culture festival is back again, with the 2022 George Town Festival (GTF) taking place in a fully physical format from 9 to 24 July 2022. Over 80 ticketed and free programmes covering visual art, theatre, music, dance, film, photography, and more will be featured, coming together to create a unique experience for the public to discover and appreciate George Town’s cultural heritage, taking place in various places across George Town and beyond.
The Festival’s return is long-anticipated as it has grown into an iconic arts festival and a hallmark event in Penang since its inaugural edition in 2010. Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said, “The George Town Festival’s continuous efforts to promote the arts are one of the reasons Penang has made significant strides in the global arts scene; CNN Travel dubbed GTF as ‘Best of Penang rolled up in one big festival’ while The New York Times reviewed it as a ‘festival growing into a major Asian arts event’.
“Much of the Festival’s success stems from its sincere commitment to nurturing homegrown talents, preserving local culture and heritage, and providing an international platform for local artists, all while aligning itself with some of the major components of the Penang2030 vision, which are ‘Family-Focused’ and ‘Inspire’. These are all reflected in the Festival’s programming, giving the George Town Festival its soul that so many other festivals strive for.”
Among some of the featured ticketed programmes are “The Senses” and “Mozart at the Mansion”. These niche ticketed programmes will be held at The Habitat Penang Hill’s Curtis Crest and Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion – The Blue Mansion, which are located within Penang’s two UNESCO-designated sites. Furthermore, not only are both venues located within the Penang Hill Biosphere Reserve and George Town UNESCO World Heritage Site, these programmes also allow Festival-goers to enjoy concerts in a rainforest or a historic mansion, instead of a concert hall.
Opera piece “Mozart at the Mansion” is set to take place at the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (also known as The Blue Mansion), promising an evening of divine opulence with soaring selections of Mozart’s arias and duets performed by the Kuala Lumpur City Opera (KLCO).
“The Senses” is set to take place at Penang’s highest 360° viewing platform – The Habitat Penang Hill’s Curtis Crest, making for a one-of-a-kind concert in a 130-million-year-old rainforest with mesmerising views of Penang Hill Biosphere Reserve’s ancient rainforest, the George Town World Heritage Site and beyond. Headlined by the multitalented Alena Murang, “The Senses” offers an all-round sensorial experience for all types of audiences.
Other not-to-be-missed ticketed programmes are “Teater Tradisional Makyung ‘DEWA INDERA INDERA DEWA’”, a riveting performance of Mak Yong, an almost extinct Malay traditional performance and “Ibu 伊母”, a Teochew puppet theatre performance which brilliantly combines traditional Teochew art form with modern technology (projection mapping) to tell a story inspired by a famous Southeast Asian folklore.
In “The Shang Sisters: Pesta Irama Bersama-sama”, The Shang Sisters bring their inimitable artistry, style and flair to create a concert for the ages. Accompanied by the award-winning WVC Jazz ensemble, Janet Lee, Winnie Ho and Mian Tan will be presenting classic Chinese and Malay songs, tunes from the Great American Songbook and much more, all rooted in a distinctly Malaysian and Nanyang sound.
Children’s musical theatre show “Oops! Belle the Witch is Gone!” follows Momo, a clever yet naughty little boy caught in a magical world of fantasy, where Baddie – an evil wizard – lives. What happens when Baddie captures Momo and wants to put him in an ugly soup to make the world an ugly kingdom, forever?
Inspired by the saying “the eyes are the window to the soul”, “VISION, a New Wave” features exciting displays of new dance creations choreographed by three emerging choreographers of Euphoria Penang that remind audiences of the gift of SIGHT. Expect to see the Euphoria Penang’s talented dancers creating “waves” on the window to our soul and a VISION on how they see the world and beyond with imagination and magic.
Through energetic performances of shigu, gamelan, jidor, gendang, didgeridoo and more, A concert to “浪(lang4) x lepak” by Orang Orang Drum Theatre is set to explore the diverse sounds of global cultures while “drumming” their pandemic anxiety with Rosemary Joel and Gideon Alu8khan Chen on vocals and sape and shamise. Expect original pieces like “People. Cars. Buildings.”, “Tuyang sit in the corner”, and more.
In documentary theatre show “A Notional History”, activist Fahmi Reza, journalist Faiq Syazwan Kuhiri, and performer Rahmah Pauzi excavate school textbooks, inherited memories, and video interviews of exiled revolutionaries – uncovering erasures, exclusions, and questions around the Malayan Emergency in this revolutionary documentary performance directed by Mark Teh. They investigate and speculate on the possible histories for a ‘New Malaysia’, intersecting the personal, the national, and the notional.
Besides ticketed programmes, festival-goers can look forward to free programmes – which constitutes 70 percent of the Festival’s programmes to showcase Penang’s diverse culture and heritage – ranging from shows, screenings, exhibitions, masterclasses, and many more. Some of the must-watch shows and screenings are “Angin OMbulan”, a contemporary version of Malay traditional healing performances inspired by Main Puteri and Mak Yong; “SERENITY: A Glimpse Through the Traditional Lenses”, a screening session and performance aims to connect traditional art forms with contemporary dance practices; and “G-Short 2022 Finalists Film Screening”, which features the works of the “G-Short” Short Film Festival’s finalists selected from 69 countries.
Art enthusiasts can mark their calendars for “Cahaya XR: First Edition”, an immersive XR art exhibition which uses technologies like virtual, augmented, and mixed reality to reimagine Penang’s traditional stories and heritage. Further, the Festival will be made merrier with “A night at Hin”, where festival-goers and shoppers can enjoy the famous artisan market at night in three different themes spread across three weekends.
Keen to deliver its promise of making arts accessible to all under its theme “A Festival for Everyone”, the Festival is bringing the “Stay-at-Home Concert” community event to the residents of Macallum Street Ghaut. The community event – a collaboration with Pengkalan Kota assemblyman’s service centre – not only exposes new arts and cultural experiences to a community that might not otherwise engage with the Festival, but it also offers the community a chance to enjoy the arts right on their doorstep. Other than the “Stay-at-Home Concert” community event, there are also a selection of family-friendly programmes for festival-goers to choose from including “Come Play With Me: A Piano Concert for Families”, an hour-long concert for all ages filled with beautiful and family-friendly piano music by famous classical composers as well as modern pieces.
The Festival will also be connecting festival-goers with the international arts and culture scene through various collaborations with other countries. Learners and lovers of architecture will find much to be discovered at the “Le Corbusier” exhibition which features models of French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier’s iconic buildings. This exhibition is presented by USM x Alliance Française Malaisie and curated by RT+Q, in conjunction with the Le French Film Festival and the George Town Festival 2022, with the support of the Le Corbusier Foundation (& Alliance Française de Singapour) and sponsorship by Escatec.
Meanwhile, in a collaboration with Taipei’s Department of Cultural Affairs, “Isle to Isle” is set to return for its 4th edition, continuing the excitement of interpreting the spirit of exchanging cultures and communicating through the arts to connect two islands – Penang and Taiwan – together.
“Festivals such as the George Town Festival have been instrumental in branding the state as a creative city,” says Penang State EXCO for Tourism and Creative Economy (PETACE) Yeoh Soon Hin. “Thanks to the Festival’s continuous effort in supporting the arts, many visitors and even locals begin to recognise the state as an innovative city. This enhances the cohesiveness among creativity and people, reimagines and recreates the city with not only heritage and food but also creativity as one of its greatest assets to power the economy.”
“Festival-goers can also expect many new productions produced by our talented creative practitioners as the Festival intends to nurture homegrown talents by providing an international platform to our talented creative practitioners, while supporting the creative economy and local businesses while making arts accessible to all. Additionally, I would like to point out that although the Festival is back in a physical format this year, the Festival returns without big-scale outdoor events. Instead, small and medium events on a reduced scale with diverse themes at different venues will be held throughout the Festival to create the mood for universal celebration. Festival-goers can enjoy the many programmes that will take place at the Festival safely and comfortably. It’s been a while since everyone enjoyed events and festivals, so we hope the public can recall or find back the excitement again through the GTF.”