Malaysian Comic Book Artist Finds Stories in Streets of Penang

Penangites will always carry their "home" everywhere they go. 

If you’ve been around, you will always hear someone say “Penang one better”. The pride we hold onto is more than just food and culture. It’s also the history and heritage that we embody. Unlike other cities in Malaysia, Penang offers the uniqueness of land and sea yet never short of the hustle and bustle of the city.

Despite being away from Penang for decades, Julian “Lefty” Kam, a Malaysian comic book artist, is no stranger to Penang’s arts and culture scene. When he stayed with us in Forward School, I had a chat with him on some of the projects he was working on; one of them that caught my attention was the “I Am Home” online exhibition.

The "I Am Home" project is an online exhibition featuring multicultural narratives of home-making in Malaysia. The intention is to foreground meaningful experiences that promote the true spirit of being a Malaysian. Lefty and his friends are making the effort to relive the memories of how the older generation remembered them. While we have the luxury of growing up having photographs and smartphones, the older generations only have a photographic memory of it.

Lefty's illustration of Hameediyah

In “I Am Home”, Lefty sketched based shared stories and his imagination of what it was. Every sketch is always corroborated with the storyteller, embodying its essence of the memory. His creative skills convey its meaning more effectively than a mere verbal description. 

Now, when one mentions Penang, food is the first thing that comes to mind as Penang is known as the food haven of Malaysia. And being a Penangite, Lefty is proud of what Penang has to offer. A true gem in Penang, he claimed, is Hameediyah, a Nasi Kandar restaurant operated by Mr. Ahameed Seeni Pakir, an 8th generation restaurateur. Never compromising on the quality and taste of food served every day, Mr. Ahameed followed his generations-old family recipe through and through. It’s no wonder they continue to draw crowds even until today.

Lefty's illustration of the Money Changer

While working on “I Am Home”, Lefty wanted to be close to where the stories are, George Town itself, the place of heritage, culture, and arts. Forward School, located in the heart of Penang city amongst the kaleidoscope of colors, sights, and smell, is a haven of comfort and convenience with a touch of local flavor. It was important for Lefty to have access to these stories by foot; hence he chose Forward School as the location for his private office.

FS [Forward School] is my first choice because it is literally located at the center of my research. I reach everywhere in the core zone of Georgetown by foot, and the good people of FS even provided me a workspace. The staff is all very helpful and supportive. I would really love to come back for my next Georgetown project.

Part of the process of choosing a place to stay for work or travel is researching the city and whether it matches your interest. The I Am Home project is one of the best ways to learn about Penang’s history and culture; drawings that tell more than words can say.

Everyone has their own story, so what’s your story of Penang?

To join Lefty and his friends’ journey about Penang, follow them here and Lefty’s personal site here. They shared so much more than I could tell here, and it is part of my own learning journey about my home state too.

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Community Executive

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