Much is known about Armenian street (Lebuh Armenian) which is located in the inner city of Georgetown and also the central zone of the Georgetown UNESCO World Heritage Site. It dates back to the early part of the 19th century, when the Armenian family first set foot on Penang. Before the Armenians came, it was formerly known as Malay Lane due to the Malay settlement there. However, it was during 1822 that the Armenians had established the Armenian Church of St Gregory and the street was named Armenian Street after. Sadly, in 1937, the church was demolished and the church land was sold and most of the Armenians had decided to leave Penang. It was after the Armenians left that the Chinese traders moved into the area. Thanks to the traders and merchants who were financing the mining of tin in the Larut district of Perak, Armenian Street gain its glory back till the early 20th century. Due to the Hokkien traders, Armenian Street is also known as Phak Tang-Nga Kay which literally mean “copper worker’s street”. As you can see, the street is ever changing since the early 19th century till now. For those who are into the local’s life as well as their culture, this street had definitely gone through a lot to fit their requirement. So, do ensure that you find out as much as possible. The more you know about the World Heritage Site before your trip, the more the site will come alive.
During the Georgetown Heritage Day 2012, which was held from 15th June – 15th July 2012, there were three notable artworks found in Armenian Street to promote responsible travel: two murals and one sculpture. Two of them were done by the young Lithuania-born London-trained artist named Ernest Zacharevic who was commissioned to participate in the Mirrors Georgetown project, one of the major parts of Georgetown Heritage Day 2012. One of his murals depicted a little girl riding a bike. Behind her sat her younger brother, tightly holding on to her. The expressions on their faces were carefully painted and lifelike that their laughter can be heard echoing down the street. Zacharevic creatively and carefully planned all his murals, with a real old bicycle positioned along with the children painted on the wall, creating a 3D effect on his master piece. The next master piece would be a giant mural of an old man on the wall of a shophouse facing Armenian Street. This giant mural of the old man seems to be preparing a drink for himself while facing the busy street. All of Zacharevic’s works are from actual photographs taken personally by him and resembles the enthusiasm of life in the inner city.
The last artwork found in Armenian Street would be Caricature –Float Procession, just after the Old Man mural done by Zacharevic. Unlike Zacharevic’s art work, the caricature is a steel-rod sculpture drawn by local cartoonist Tang Mun Kian. This artwork is part of another project called Marking Georgetown that was initiated by the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) in order to celebrate the history and heritage of the city. The story behind this steel-rod sculpture is to depict the Grand Float Procession during 1926 to celebrate the birthday of Tua Pek Kong (the Taoist God of Prosperity). Since 1926 is the year of the Tiger in the Chinese zodiac, an effigy of the tiger was carried through the streets. Beside it, a British tourist was observing the procession and remembered the last tiger shot in 1930 which was practically impossible since the Tua Pek Kong Grand Procession took place during 1926. However, you should know that it was intended as the concept was to display a dry telling of history for a wittier take on Georgetown.
Armenian Street was known for being an arts colony and tourist mecca, still renowned for its urban beauty even though it had seen better days. You can explore your transportation options by hiring a local trishaw man to bring you around this beautiful street. Not only will you be able to enrich your experience with someone who is knowledgeable about the destination, you are also minimizing your carbon emission. Besides that, stop by any hawker store and try eating the local foods or buy local products found in this street. The sunlight creating shadows on the shophouses wall, the sound of hawkers and busy vehicles in the street, you will find the atmosphere there wrapping you up like a warm blanket; all these can only be experienced if you step into this street.
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