Saturday, 28 January 2017

28. The Cats of George Town

Street art embellishes our communities in so many ways. It offers a kaleidoscope of images to contemplate, appreciate or maybe just laugh at as we go about our daily ways. It beautifies and revitalizes derelict areas and often serves as the first step toward renewal. It provides an outlet for the type of political and social commentary at which artists like Banksy excel. And it even raises and magnifies the awareness of social issues that demand our attention.

Today we're going to focus on a great example of the last point above. We're also going to show some fun cat art. That's art about cats, not art by cats.

Back in 2013, a group of artists (Malaysians Tang Yeok Khang and Louise Low, and Thai Natthaton Muangkliang) came together in George Town, Malaysia to launch a project called 101 Lost Kittens. The purpose of the project was to raise awareness of the plight of stray and homeless animals in the city and to encourage people to adopt. The name came from the number of cats that were included in 12 murals painted across the historic part of the city. 

We didn't come across all of the murals, but we did discover most of them. The largest one is called Skippy Comes to Penang. Skippy was a stray cat with a deformed leg who was eventually rescued by the co-founder of an animal shelter on another Malaysian island, Langkawi.

Our favourite, was Cats and Humans Happily Living Together, shown at the top of this post and immediately below. The mural presents a Taoist procession (most of Penang's Chinese-majority population follows the Taoist religion) with cats taking the place of humans. The cats are carrying banners, lanterns and other religious paraphernalia.

In the picture below, the two cats bringing up the rear are carrying two tiny Taoist deities on a dais.

Another crowd-pleaser is The Real Bruce Lee Would Never do This. We've read in several places that this image of Lee karate-kicking a cat is supposed to discourage animal cruelty, but if there's a logic operating in there, we fail to see it.

No Animal Discrimination Please is a play on words. It sounds like it's encouraging people not to discriminate against animals, but what it's really promoting is equal rights between cats and dogs.

Perhaps the mural that best reflects Asian culture - and its obsession with money - is called Love Me Like a Fortune Cat. It features a normal cat surrounded by fortune cats, those kitschy porcelain dolls that you often see by the cash register in Japanese and Taiwanese restaurants. Shopkeepers believe that the cats bring good business.

I Can Help Catch Rats encourages homeowners to adopt cats as a means of reducing the rat population.

Whereas Please Care and Bathe Me reminds people that it's not enough to adopt a cat, you also have to look after it.

And let it not be said that the cats haven't done anything to help themselves. The evidence is right here in Cats March for Animal Awareness.

Finally, the trio of artists, who operate under the name Artists for  Stray (ASA) contributed a number of bonus murals to the project, including this one, perhaps heralding the arrival of the next 101 kittens?

You can understand that all the new cats in town might intimidate the local mouse and rat population. But the artists may have taken this into account by giving the rodents a hero of their own.

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